Cancer

The word flits past the surgeon’s lips,
riding an ordinary exhalation of breath.
And, as with the displacement of air
stirred by the flutter of a butterfly’s wings,
what is set in motion may change a world forever.
Yet, my emotions sputter to engage and my mind toggles
between odds of survival and the fact that this doctor,
whom I never met, is older and less comely
than I imagined her to be. Perhaps I’m not good
at this sort of thing; perhaps I’ve gone numb,
force-marched through the medical maze; or
perhaps I’m just soul-withering tired.

I fidget through her post-op slumber,
eyes darting like humming birds
from clock to TV to door to clock.
And when, at last, she is given back to me,
I anchor at her bedside where I will ride
the ebbings and flowings of the afternoon,
feigning a velvet calm; seeding the air
with positives; and tracing slowly, again
and again, the contours of the face
that first entranced me like the North Star
some forty-odd years ago.

Later that evening, driving home alone,
only the rhythms of a rutted road
securing me to my task, I survey with
gnawing disbelief the chronology
of the last few months and am left
with nothing but a sigh to cushion
the rugged ride ahead.

© 2009 Dennis Ference

First appeared in Ars Medica.

24 thoughts on “Cancer

  1. Achingly beautiful!

    ” tracing slowly, again
    and again, the contours of the face
    that first entranced me like the North Star
    some forty-odd years ago.”

    Thank you for sharing this intimate moment with us. My heart goes out to you for this deep suffering.

    Peace be with you,
    Anna

  2. I work in the cancer industry and I have to say this is one of the best pieces I’ve read. Just an amazing piece. I was wondering if you’d mind me posting this in the staff room to remind us all of the patient’s side of things?

  3. Beautiful poem, Dennis. You’ve captured much heartfelt emotion with your gift for words. So glad this ended well for you and your wife.

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