By Dr. Paula Aamli
After Tracey Emin
And three women throw up their arms in the tropical bay,
adding pink/white flare smoke to the near-clear blue sky,
balanced, sturdy, XX-X on their Tonka-Toy-alike row-boat.
And their coordinated gear so pristine white and shock-pink
that they would seem to be setting out, not arrived at the end,
but for the relief, elation, exhaustion pouring from their pose.
And sponsor names at the front of frame declare this to be the
Talisker Whiskey! Atlantic Challenge! Co-sponsor, HSBC!
while other photos reveal: Women Trios Record! 42 Days!
And they look sleek and fit and toned and white and young,
and carefree, and relaxed, and triumphant, and nonchalant,
and nothing here would tell me – ovarian cancer, stage IV.
And I read the story, flicking down our corporate newswire,
how much money they’ve raised for cancer charities so far,
how they surfed huge waves, rowed with whales and sharks.
And I settle my sheepskin coat as a rug over belly and thighs,
soft, saggy, spreading, not formed for oceans, not for racing,
feel an unworthy stab of gratitude for what I have not endured.
And I take a picture of my three half-glass champagne flight,
all low dosage, extra dry, the bar manager’s joke for January,
lined up under Tracey Emin’s neon greeting sign: Y-Y-Y.
Note – Tracey Emin’s bright pink neon art installation at St Pancras station, London is called “I Want My Time With You”.
Dr. Paula Aamli is a Humanities graduate, writer, and poet. Her thesis, “Working through climate grief: A poetic inquiry”, explores individual and institutional responses to the emerging climate crisis, using arts-based research and poetry.
Paula has had poems published, or selected for future publication, in The Lindenwood Review, the Tiger Moth Review, FreezeRay Poetry, and Paddler Press, among others. One of Paula’s poems received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2021.