Posts Tagged ‘cancer’



Every year the red or pink envelopes would arrive,

three of them tucked into the post office box—

one for my daughter, one for my son, and one

for me. Sally always remembered. My children

were, perhaps, a bit cavalier about the cards—

they’d read the Valentines and smile and set them aside.

But I had an inkling of the longing to give love

inside them. How beautiful her heart.

How lucky I felt to be chosen by her.

How lucky to return her love.


This year, only bills in the post office box

and catalogs for sheets and seeds and clothes.

And the part of me who knows she is gone

shrugs as if I should just go on. But the part

of me who misses her longs today to find

her familiar script on a red envelope. I know

that it’s unreasonable. That doesn’t stop hope.


I tell the part that misses her that it’s okay

to grieve. That it’s okay to feel empty today.

That it’s okay to want to believe in miracles.

I love the part of me that misses her—I love

how it insists on remembering this gift:

Such a wonder to be loved by someone,

such a marvel to love them back.



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The yew can live to be over two thousand years old—

a sacred tree that grows large enough for forty people


to stand inside it. Today, its ancient power fits

in a clear plastic bag the size of two fists and it drips


through a clear plastic tube into the chest of my friend.

In three days, she will not want to move. She will not


want to eat. She will wonder if it’s all worth it.

It will last a week. So strange that a plant


that causes death when consumed will help

to save her life. Her hair has been gone for weeks.


But today, on her last day of chemo, I marvel

at how she is being infused with evergreen


in the hopes that she will transmogrify, carry

in her the mystery that grows in the bark of the tree.


When a yew branch touches the ground, it takes root.

Sprouts again. Let her body know this secret. Amen.

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Someone has crocheted a half dozen blankets—

one dark purple, another camo green, another

with stripes in every possible color.

There are half a dozen quilts with bright squares.

And someone has knit a dozen hats—

and a basket on the shelf overflows with handmade scarves.


My friend chooses a pink cotton pillow

that someone has sewn in the shape of a heart

and a long creamy scarf, impossibly soft.

She would rather be anywhere but here,

but look at that smile as she dons the scarf,

as if its stitches are keeping her from falling away.

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beside the koi pond

trying to breathe underwater—

if only, if only

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We were better at it then.
On the muddy desert river
in our yellow rubber boat,
you would sit in front
and I would sit in back
and as our bow
would slide onto the glossy
slick tongue of the rapid,
we’d begin to sing.
Opera. Neither of us
knew a thing about opera,
except that it made us feel
invincible to sing the highest
notes we could hit and to hear
each other trilling just above
the white roar. We thrilled
at the edge of chaos. Joy
in our ignorance. Confusion
did not seem to have the same
bite it does now when you call
me to say the surgery is Wednesday
and you’ll know then if the three tumors
are malignant. I do not sing
when you tell me. Nor after we hang up,
unless you call whimpering song.
Which perhaps it is, though I do not
feel brave, standing on the edge
of this new chaos, you in front
again, this current much stronger
than we can paddle against. I feel
our humanity, how the end is all
wrapped up in the middle,
the beginning, how little we know
and how fragile we are. I look
out the skylight at the buds
on the cottonwood trees.
They are swelling, though not
yet green. They do not resemble
what they will become,
but experience tells us
to expect a bright green unfurling.
We have no experience now
with what comes next. But we
do know how to sing a high warble,
trill it high above the hospital hum.
I am rusty, but mustering the voice
to sing to you from here,
even though I no longer believe
it will keep us from sinking.

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