Hurt & Healing, 1st Place Winner: My Father Postpones His Appearance on Wheel of Fortune While I’m in Rehab by Eliza Gilbert

It’s a true delight to share this poem by the 2023 Hurt & Healing Prize winner, Eliza Gilbert!

About Eliza’s poem, the judge Andrés Cerpa writes, “Each cutting line of “My Father Postpones His Appearance on Wheel of Fortune While I’m in Rehab” is alive with the momentum of generations and sacrifice. It holds the grit of struggle, hard days, and constructs from those days the profound strangeness of the world repeating while simultaneously being new.”


My Father Postpones His Appearance on Wheel of Fortune While I’m in Rehab

A man spins the wheel and finds his father.

A father spins the wheel and drafts a man.

A man drafts a man on a wheel. Vitruvius breathes again.

An architect discovers proportion and dies as symmetrically as he was born.

A white dwarf whirls. Blushes. Inadvertently slurps a galaxy.

Venus in the Vitamix. A juice-cleansed nebula.

Snow salts a city. Romaine goes droopy. The man and his daughters order takeout.

The city is a wheel to which the man is strapped.

PEMDAS is BS. The spin inside the spin does not negate the greater spin.

For example: a daughter catches fire. The man puts her out with a dishtowel.

The daughter is a trick candle. Comes back brighter, with double the heads.

He drives her to a blank place. Princeton, New Jersey.

There’s a higher power in New Jersey. Imagine that.

The man and his remaining daughter slather aloe, get takeout.

The other haunts the fringe of a nurse’s station. Learns the difference between impatient and inpatient.

Shocks all; avoids a feeding tube. Whiz kid of belated salvage.

The producers call. The man can’t make it.

The ward is shaped like an orbital socket.

The scorch settles. The panes clarify. There are woodpeckers in the window.

Producers call back. He’s in. She’s out. Home-ish. Normalcy is a wheel.

Years later, bankrupt slice. A lump under the man’s tongue.

The man is a city. The daughter is clinging to his best spire.

They zap the lump. Hard. He knows better than to be ungrateful.

New ghoul, new nurse’s station. Same cheeks. The man shocks all; avoids a feeding tube.

The white dwarf detonates. Returns to earth as a swarm of woodpeckers.

These, too, are kinds of symmetry.

The daughter knows what it is, to smell of hospital.

There is magic in the proton beams. Also cruelty. Spin or solve?

Snow again. Takeout. Both daughters. Zapped man. Vanna White in sequins.

The motherly tsk of the wheel. The smell of sallow.

Wheels, all of them. Nothing cancels out.

On the porch, the man hangs thirteen suet feeders.

A woodpecker smashes into the screen and detonates


Eliza Gilbert

Eliza Gilbert is an undergraduate at Vassar College. She was a finalist for the 2022 Adroit Prize in Poetry, and her work can be found/is forthcoming in Pidgeonholes, Third Wednesday, Anti-Heroin Chic, and more. She was born and raised in New York City.

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