A Letter to My Radiation Oncologist
my husband nicknamed you Whirlybird.
I’m not even sure where it came from
other than a need to make me laugh
when cancer took it’s hard cold fist and wrung all the joy
right out of my belly
there he was calling you Whirlybird
with your hair falling out of its clip
and your too big shoes,
your doctors coat always a tad askew
as if you just stumbled
lipstick smeared out of a closet
after making out with one of the younger residents.
For 36 sessions, you administered
a deadly beam of radiation
through my right breast and lymph nodes
hopefully not hitting my lungs
hopefully not hitting too many bones
and I’m not entirely sure how you managed it,
Whirls, since you never seemed to be able to find
and because you started and stopped more sentences
than a kid on a sugar high
and because you giggle like a girl getting a first kiss at summer camp.
Because, Whirls, this is cancer, my god,
you have to be serious
so that day
when I waited in my paper gown
and heard that bang on the other side of the door
I just knew it was you
even before you said,
Oh, oh my, um…one second
and then when you appeared at the other door,
and realized you were locked out of both doors
and you knocked and said,
“Um it’s me, can you let me in?”
and I started to laugh so hard
for you, Whirlybird
I just want to say thanks.
Because at the end of the day
it’s important to remember that all of you doctors
don’t really know what you’re doing anyway
and this might be one giant crapshoot
god knows if it all goes to shit tomorrow
you made me laugh.
At least we had that.
Verlaine was a Dirty Old Man
What is it? What is it?
the old man says coming out of his lace shop
looking at us, map in hand.
We are in Brussels just weeks after the terrorist attack
and the news keeps telling me that the residents are reeling
but all I see are people
eating and drinking with friends,
and he says again, what are you looking for?
I live here long time. I help you.
His French accent heavy on his tongue.
The marker is wrong he tells us,
pointing to the stone monument outside
the one that claims that in this building
Verlaine fired shots at Rimbaud.
Two lovers, twisted together in this city.
It did not happen here, he says,
I bought this building back in the 70’s
and it did not happen here.
It happened down there,
he points down the street,
about four streets and to the right
he points at the parade of Chinese tourists
that pass by,
here, he says,
all tourists. Is better for city to lie.
So Verlaine, he says
dirty old homo
he was here drinking
he liked to fuck
which makes me and my husband laugh
which makes the old man smile
he fuck all the time.
Dirty old man fucking.
This area was full of homos back then
Homos up here,
he points up the cobbled stone streets
homos down there
he swings his hand behind him
just drinking and fucking
dirty old Verlaine.
What else you want to know?
he asks me
so I say
You know where Van Gogh lived?
and he nods
two blocks down there.
On the left
Not so much fucking.
So much crazy, that Vincent.
Everybody’s Got A Hungry Heart
I was thirty years old
the rock star says
and I wanted so many things
love, stability, a family.
And I thought if I wrote them
if I really imagined it,
well then maybe it would happen for me.
So I did this.
But I did it for you too.
I did it for all of us.
It was a time we all had
and something that shouldn’t be forgotten.
and I look around the crowd
all 40 thousand of us
packed in our seats
having spent the money
we earn at jobs we hate
to be here
because that is the power of music
and that is the power of art
and I look around
tears in my eyes
because we’re all here together
with this man who had spoken to us,
and all I see
are the mad workings
of sad thumbs on phones,
but not hearing the words
not seeing the rare gift this man
the love just offered
but only straining
for the opening chords
of Hungry Heart.