National Poetry Month, which takes place each April, is a celebration of poetry introduced in 1996. The event is spearheaded by the Academy of American Poets and originated on the steps of a post office in New York City. There, the story goes, Academy staff members handed out copies of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Waste Land,” which begins, “April is the cruellest month…” to individuals waiting in line to mail their tax returns.
Those of you who follow The Teal Diaries are aware that I write prose, however I’ve been inspired during my cancer treatments to pen a small collection of poetry. Here I’ve chosen to share two of my short poems. My compositions Patient’s Lab Results and A Visit to the Emergency Room both explore the life altering power of a cancer diagnosis.
Patient’s Lab Results
The sun is preparing to set on a late autumn afternoon,
its rays hold me together as I fall asleep dreaming of
my immaculate incision. Scarcely a week since my surgery.
I almost laugh to think I was such a novice.
Such a common virgin.
I pass through sliding doors to a point of no return.
Then I enter a vacant waiting room,
a place that is sinister, foreboding.
How many women have waited in these chairs?
How many innocent lives transformed?
“The ultrasound shows a growth on your ovary.”
“You need surgery to remove your uterus and right ovary.”
“You have cancer.”
Ultimately, he arrives, seeming anxious to print the pages.
“Here, this is for you.”
His words turn to ice as he offers me the pathology report.
Warmth as he grasps my hand, lending some reassurance.
My world dissolves as I take ownership of a disease.
The rapidly dividing cells, the cancerous tumors,
the abhorrent malignancy.
“Adenocarcinoma of the endometrium”
“The uterine cavity is completely filled with light tan neoplasm.”
“Right ovary with synchronous endometroid adenocarcinoma”
A Visit to the Emergency Room
Riding unending waves of pain and nausea,
I take a secret pride in my endurance.
The sign over the door says MINOR EMERGENCIES.
Should I draw attention to this irony?
The young nurses seem aloof, peering out from
behind their curtain. I sense that we are to be
endured until morning comes. Around me
are the homeless, the destitute the addicted.
The fluorescent lights have been turned low,
casting a pale greenish tinge across the room.
Beeping monitors and moaning
patients provide the soundtrack.
I wonder if these souls feel entirely unaided,
abandoned, alone amid the chaos.
Each of us is fighting a singular
and solitary battle.
A torrent of frustration, then drowning I panic.
I want to scream that I’m a cancer patient
and my bowels are blocked.
I long for them to have evidence.
When will they be convinced?
I’m a bloated organ about to rupture.
The pre-dawn hours break like a fever
and I emerge from my delirium.
The kind eyes of the doctor and the
contrite look on the nurse’s face.