Origin Stories – Maryann Hurtt

Origin Stories
Even Dead Fish Become Roses
    Even Dead Fish Become Roses
    by Maryann Hurtt

    she remembers in her last days
    as cancer slips through a back door
    trying to steal whatever
    was good
    but memories sustain her
    of a time relishing
    second chance lust
    even love

    and how she and her man
    lay on Onion River’s bank 
    joining muck and grit
    with unexpected kisses
    then rolling on to the carcass
    of a stinky dead fish

    an explosion of guts
    and almost pee in your pants laughter
    taking too many mean years
    into something so sweet
    even dead fish become roses
    a way she learned
    and would never forget
    to love the flower
    and the bramble

Origin Stories – “Even Dead Fish Become Roses”

For thirty years, I was a hospice nurse and listened to and witnessed a thousand stories. Dying is hard work and folks figure all kinds of ways to deal with their last days. I got to a house one morning where cancer appeared to have taken an especially awful vengeance on a not so old woman. She and her second husband had found each other after too many years of “if it weren’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” They told me their story of found again love (and lust) and how they had gone down to Onion River, found a sweet spot on the river bank, and proceeded to roll onto a stinky dead fish. As I listened to them almost pee in your pants laugh, I knew cancer could never steal what they had. And I would need to remember their story so I would never forget, too.


Now retired after working thirty years as a hospice RN, Maryann Hurtt listened to and savored a thousand stories. Her family members were all great storytellers and she recorded in her 6th grade diary that when she grew up, she wanted to be a “storyteller (a good one)”.  She lives in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine where she hikes, bikes, reads, and writes almost daily. Since retirement, she has had the energy to pursue researching Oklahoma’s Tar Creek environmental disaster. Her grandpa worked in the lead and zinc mines and her great-grandmother and grandmother worked at the Quapaw Indian Agency where the minerals were initially mined. Turning Plow Press published Once Upon a Tar Creek Mining for Voices in 2021. Her most recent poems have appeared or are upcoming in Verse-Virtual, Gyroscope Review, Moss Piglet, Hiroshima Day Anthology, and Writing In a Woman’s Voice. An earlier chapbook, River, (Kelsay Books) explored resilience in the face of dying. More can be found at maryannhurtt.com

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Now Available

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

April 19 – Claudia Reder

April 20 – Cathy Thwing

April 21 – Sarah Snyder

April 22 – Susan Barry-Schultz

April 23 – Laurie Kuntz

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

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