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PPA Staff



It was a phone call, the distress in her voice,

her fragility travels through the wires,

she confides her diagnosis, breast cancer.


I respond too rapidly, pour myself out in a minute,

open up the bottle I keep tightly closed

on a subject I want on the back shelf


gathering dust, put aside, buried, forgotten

with the other fears that keep managing to fall off

into my dreams, caught weak and vulnerable.


I hear the beat of my mortality,

it flows under the river of words,

shock, time, surgery, chemo, radiation.

My bottled fears spill out over the receiver


but I do not talk of infections, blood clots,

I do not talk of spending a year preparing to die,

I do not philosophize the need to live each day as a gift,


like others, I have no right to feel confident,

no privilege to the Book of Life and what it contains.

She hangs up uncomforted because

mine is a success story, one among many.


I leave the window of hope open

she leaves her fears on my shoulders.


Paula Camacho


For Dennis Kim


You do not have to explain why

you emptied your pockets, ripped off

your shoes, dived into seventy-five

feet of water.  Why a sense of panic

preceded your plunge into the wet hands

of the Hudson River, hands that did not want

to let you go.  We have felt the panic,

the misplacement of a poem, a manuscript

somewhere near but lost, the rummaging

and rustling of papers hours into days,

one piece of paper, the accumulation

of minutes and seconds, the words

we have been searching for, the words that fall

majestically on a blank page like rain on

dry earth until the paper fills with

the river of our lives, our emotions, our souls


You do not have to explain your loss

to fellow poets who mourn you for jumping

in the waters at St. Christopher’s pier for the bag

that held all your writings, your poems,

for screaming before the leap “I can’t let this stuff go.”

We wish it had been otherwise, we wish that

the confidence you had in retrieving the treasure

would have carried you beyond the pull

of the river’s grasping hands and into the career you so desired.  We wish your writing life

would have started at twenty-two instead of ended.

We wish this poem need not be written.  We wish we

could tell you that there would be more years of writing

to let the river take your words.  We wish our wishes

were answered prayers.


Paula Camacho

Poetry workshop leader, many awards won,

many publishing credits, one book published



Did you ever have the taffy they sell

along the shores where seagulls swoop at bits


of crumbs fallen from food like water drops

off the sides of rocks; the taffy that is


pulled and stretched in shades of colored flavors,

each sticky rope drawn towards infinity,


its sugar crystals like stars in the swirl

of an universe ever expanding


the big bang stretched and pulled inside your mouth,

until taffy goo implodes into sweetness?


Paula Camacho

Performance Poets Association®