Residual by Betsy Mars


My friend reminds me that we run
out of time, while the things we acquire –
that enormous roll of plastic wrap,
the multipack of whatever the 99 Cent store
had in stock, the forever stamps, all of it –
all the crap we accumulate, desired or not:
the bandages and toiletries, from hospital stays,
rehab finery, the things insurance cast
against our mortality, follow us home,
wanted or not. We paid for them,
consciously or in our delirium;
so they come back with us, in transparent bags,
labeled and contaminated for anyone
other than us. Waste not, want not
was the old decree and so they are stashed
under the bed or relegated to corners –
a reminder of that time in purgatory
when we did not know if our bodies
would recover enough, or go through that rot,
that decline into a state of “not” – we despaired
and sacrificed our dignity for a chance at what?
a few more trips down the corridor, walker at hand,
the touch of a hand, one more chance to share,
to dare to love, to listen, soon to be outside of,
left at the curb of this conversation we call life.


Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

5 thoughts on “Residual by Betsy Mars

  1. How true and sadly powerful. A loved one of mine has no memories of the trauma he endured (although I have them in detail), but he has all the accoutrements of seven and a half weeks in the ICU in his closet cubbies.

    1. Thank you, Carol. That sounds very familiar, unfortunately, as my father had one 63 day stint 10 years ago, though not all in the ICU. I can imagine how much that took out of you. Thank you so much for your kind comments.

  2. Another fine poem by the inimitable Betsy Mars. Love the details here! Love the pacing.

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