My mother-in-law You Qiong knees the washing
machine onto the balcony in rubber boots.
Most evenings she washes our clothes by hand
in front of the television, a plastic basin between her feet,
and hangs them above the kitchen’s cast-iron stove.
Most mornings I find the hot water heater already on
when I shuffle into the bathroom because she beat me to the button.
On the balcony, Theo discovers a shovel, carrying
its rust-bitten head in both hands. He picks up a repurposed can
of pineapple juice and looks at mosquitos drowned
at the bottom as if he might lift the sawed off rim to his lips.
I pluck a pinwheel from a flowerpot and entertain him
briefly by blowing it into a blur. You Qiong wraps
the mouth of the spigot with silicone tape as a way of getting
the hose to attach. Tells me to get lost, go back,
pouring detergent in her palm. She swishes her hand
around in the churning water’s wad of underwear and socks,
the sun-flowered blanket cover Theo peed on
in between diapers, his secondary sleep sack and onesie pajamas.
Afterwards, Theo and I grab handfuls of bubbles
from the diminishing mound of squishy foam. He runs them
to the makeshift bench and smears the board. Again and again,
he runs back for more foam and the board darkens with his disintegrating
handprints until You Qiong sees and makes us quit.
Cameron Morse lives with his wife Lili and son Theodore in Blue Springs, Missouri. He was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing program at the University of Missouri—Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, and South Dakota Review. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His second, Father Me Again, is available from Spartan Press and chapbook Coming Home with Cancer is forthcoming in Blue Lyra Press’s Delphi Poetry Series. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.