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Heather Wishik Poetry Collection

Heather Wishik Poetry Collection

Featured in issue 17 of Dreamers Magazine.

The Dying Tree

Below the berm a tall sapling,
leaves turned over
to reveal their lighter green,
has bent, as a paper birch might
after a storm, but
this is not a birch and
there has been no storm.

A mystery why it is
clearly dying. Partially held
by a tangle of neighboring trees,
it will not fall, just rot in place,
break up slowly, the way sick bones
dissolve from the inside, become
spongy, form lesions until segments
collapse or crack. My vertebrae,
sternum, right pelvis. Someday I too
will bend, be unable to stand,
sway, dance in the breeze.
Only the when is still a mystery.

Before We Were Stardust We Were Nothing

Iodine 131 breaks down in eighty days.
Dried skim milk reaches grocery shelves
three months from the milking shed.

Mother shook the bottle of powder and water,
chilled it overnight, poured it on our cereal.
When we complained, she explained.

Visions of mushroom clouds swelled as
she made clear we must fear fresh milk.

Snack time at school they gave each of us
two graham crackers, a red and white
one-cup carton of whole milk.

Tony and I had to say no thanks to the milk.
The graham crackers were dry. We learned
to suck on each bite ‘til it moistened.

We were the weird kids. When friends
visited they said yes to Oreos, no thank you
to the thin white liquid we called milk.

Mother, working at the Health Department,
read the atmospheric radiation reports daily.
Adults said milk was good for us, for our bones.
It seemed only my parents knew it was poison.

I have never yet been asked, by any doctor,
where did I grow up [upper airflows dumped
more radiation on some regions than others],
whether I drank farm milk [more Iodine-131],
or store milk, a little, or a lot of milk. Thanks
to my parents, if I were ever asked, I could
reply, smiling: “only dried milk from ‘54-‘63.”

President Kennedy signed the treaty halting
atmospheric testing six weeks before he died.

My generation will suffer 50,000 excess cases
of thyroid cancer. 2500 will be fatal.
No one is screening us, asking us questions.
We are all stardust, irradiated stardust

Heather Wishik

About the Author – Heather Wishik

Heather Wishik is a poet and visual artist (printmaking and collage). She studied poetry at Goddard College with Ellen Bryant Voigt and Heather McCue. Heather has been published in small magazines, most recently the third issue of Sprout. Also two LGBTQ anthologies (New Lesbian Writing and Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time) as well as PoemCity Montpelier. She writes poems that involve human relationships with and impacts on our ecology, death and dying, provoked in part by both the local effects of climate change and of living with multiple myeloma. Currently, Heather is writing a memoir in poems – and from these poems creating “Poellages” – collages built around poems. Vermont has been her home off and on since college. She and her spouse Susan live happily in an updated 1860s era farmhouse cottage. 

Meanwhile, at Dreamers…