As memory chinks fall away
and the mouth holding
its now full-hushed voice
agitates to give them the breath of life —
remember the way, once, hurled
from the tip of an acid-etched tongue,
words burned through skin and bone,
cleaving protective muscle —
and all that you can hear besides,
the cut-off and clinking on again
of finely calibrated but unseen equipment
steadying the temperature for others'
convenience and the constant thrum
of overhead tubes of fluorescent light
breaking time with the soft-padded grip
of white shoes moving room to room
to take the evening's counts,
who that is more than a thought keeps you
company, salves your palsied hand
with mists of lavender-enriched emollients
to draw from you the yesterday
lost to your cells' destruction?
In this place a plastic bracelet round the wrist
holds the notion of your identity
better than your mind
the reassurance we're right here.
Your chart neatly accepts the growth in numbers
tallied methodically with every slip of response
failing the newest most aggressive
treatments. Still, we check what we can
leave behind in so unfamiliar territory,
which whispers in your good left ear
will fix you with character enough to rally
chapter and verse against the thinning stream
of spittle, let you run your course your way,
even as a decision made months and years ago,
signed and dated and notary-stamped,
settled how it would end when the end nears.
© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.
Last week, the High Calling Blogs launched a community writing project, "We Are Real", inviting network members to submit posts about how real online relationships can become. Many who know me know that for some time I've been a member of OurCancer, an online community at NPR that fosters relationships as tight and as real and as sustaining as possible when you live daily with pain and suffering, dying and death, but also and especially with stories of recovery and hope. This poem is a kind of composite expression of some of what is shared as very real experiences in a virtual place where emotions run high and everyone pulls together. It is also the story of a friend who died without having had the benefit of a place even remotely like OurCancer.