Things You Shouldn’t Say
Can I ask you a question,
drying her own eyes
after crying about her husband,
Of course, I say.
Did you think that if you had children
you would have never gotten cancer?
And I open and close my mouth like
nowhere near water.
I Cried at Radiation Today
I cried at radiation today.
I’m not even sure why.
It wasn’t because the technician
pulled the strings on my gown
while I was still putting down my bag
and the whole thing slid off,
and I stood there topless,
though that would be a good reason, I think.
It wasn’t that she told me I couldn’t shave
my armpits anymore.
Or wear deodorant.
Or use soap in the shower.
It wasn’t that I had to get used to the smell.
It wasn’t even the old folks,
as I was in the bathroom changing,
who talked about the girl who is going to die
on November 1st
rather than fight pointlessness.
It wasn’t my dark nipple, stained from radiation.
It wasn’t my mother’s upcoming hospitalization
or the fact that my own cancer
is still a secret six months out.
Maybe it was the cold hand of the past
wrapped around my waist
that it will never be finished with me.
All the same I cried at radiation
hard and fast,
holding onto the sink
as if it was the only thing
left that could stop me from spinning
right off this planet.
You Never Know
The old man shuffled into the room,
and I say,
How are you?
which is what you should say
when old men shuffle into the room
and he smiles,
and cigar smoke
and I say
And he throws back his head and laughs
But, he tells me,
his accent a heavy stone on his tongue,
he says, the chance of you being alive
is much greater than the chance of me being alive.
His fingertips thump his chest.
And I stop and think
about the word diagnosis
and the word prognosis
and how they dance together
like two greek myths
How this summer you were Orpheus
and I was Eurydice
and how you came all
the way to hell to find me.
Hades and Persephone.
I was Helen and you were Troy
and our love started this cancer war
But the old man is still wagging his eyebrows
and asking me,
The chance of you being alive is much greater, he says again.
So I lean in,
and as flirty as possible
You never know.
And his lips form on Oh
and he howls like a laughing
wolf straight into the night.