Putting Cancer In A Poem
You have to be careful how you do it —
The first line for sure’s no place, even
The second or third might let it spring
Leaks and streak everything beneath. No,

First you need to let the light flap in
From the uncurtained window, catch
The deep breath off the gardenia bloom
Doing the backstroke in its brandy snifter

As the doctor on the phone says what he
Has to say, and your wife and friend wait
With wineglasses and the porch fan on,
Chatting and looking for you to come back

With the hors d’oeuvres, the Vinho Verde,
The poem of your life with its new name.
Wounded like me, willing to talk, knowing
What a scarecrow cancer is, how people don’t
Want to linger near that kind of news, including

Friends who mean well, look away, act as if
They can’t hear, humming in their ear, “You’re
Human, human, human, you poor thing,

Did you think you were special or something?”
Like me, who didn’t know I was like him
Until today. So, sure, he’ll meet for coffee, lunch,

Talk on the phone, exchange biopsy stories,
Gleason scores, radiation and the luck
Of early diagnosis, the years of silver lining

We are in for. I glance at his face, and it’s
Like a film has been wiped away, the fine
Forehead, the cafe window a tiny rectangle

In the eyes — the pure daylight of a look
That doesn’t need to look away.