May 2009


I’ve turned in my membership card
for the Sharing Network’s registry
of potential organ and tissue donors
and I’ve called the Blood Bank
to tell them I can’t donate any more.

They’ve called me often for many years
because my extremely rare blood
(O negative, cytomegalovirus negative)
is always in such great demand
for premature babies and transplant patients.

It’s sad—I was one of those “donors for life,”
but now I can’t give my body parts away
because although the specialists assure me
that the malignant melanoma they caught is dead,
I know there are lots of melanoma cells
floating around in my bloodstream
looking for a more hospitable home
than the one they found in my eye.

I have no pity for these homeless ones
and I count my blessings daily:
I have wonderful medical care
and an attentive extended family;
I still have my own two eyes
and I can see with both of them,
and unlike those nasty cancer cells
I am not among the homeless.

©2009 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

The unknown poet labored night and day,
crafting the words he hoped would bring him fame.
Alas, his efforts never seemed to pay—
Only the cognoscenti knew his name.

©2001 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

Falling in love at first sight
is something teenagers do,
and I certainly did my share—
but that was centuries ago,
and in the meantime I learned
that what made all the difference
was what happened after that,
and that the first sight could blind.

But that tentative, spontaneous kiss
gently taking us both by surprise
on a busy street in mid-afternoon
despite all the cars and passers-by,
and with its invisible embrace
unbroken by needless words,
ever so genuine, so light and warm,
made me feel like a teenager again.

©2007 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

Lying in bed beside my husband of 45 years
I can feel the warmth of his strong body
as I listen to his quiet, steady breathing
and know that all is well with us.
Our body heat, reinforced by the quilt,
envelopes us like a cocoon.  It’s comforting.

But when I was lying on that hospital gurney
in the cool, brightly-lit emergency room
where he had taken me in a frantic hurry
in his car—the one that doesn’t like to start—
when I had those sudden, stabbing chest pains,
that was quite a different experience.

There was no body heat to warm me
so they brought two hospital blankets
and since it was the middle of the night
they turned off the lights in my cubicle.
While my blood was sent out for testing
he held my hand and we worried silently.

When he got up to go to the men’s room
I watched him walk through the curtains,
saw his halting, somewhat unsteady gait,
and realized suddenly that we are old.
Later, lulled by the quiet sounds of the staff,
we both dozed in the subdued light,

and as I drifted off I found myself
more frightened by unwelcome thoughts
than of the event that brought us there.
When he is no longer able to care for me,
or I for him, who will take care of us
now that we are old and frail together?

©2009 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf