National Poetry Month, which takes place each April, is a celebration of poetry introduced in 1996. Those of you who follow The Teal Diaries are aware that I don’t often write poetry, however I’ve been inspired during my cancer treatments to pen a small collection.
In writing The Decades Pass I was motivated by a poem called He is Allowed into the Lab by Michael Harris. Like Harris, I’ve chosen to use the microscope as a metaphor for the intense scrutiny of the self and one’s life that occurs when one is diagnosed with cancer. My poem December Night was inspired by my first night recovering from cancer surgery.
The Decades Pass
Decades ago in my school’s biology lab I stuck a lancet in my finger.
One or two bright red drops on the slide to examine.
Under the microscope I saw my tiny cells in motion.
I gazed in awe at the unfolding miracle.
Precious in worth, exquisite in their design,
how perfect they were to my innocent eyes.
Astonished then to behold the building blocks of life,
but now what have they offered me in return?
Each one is fragile and prone to malfunction,
imperfect under the oncologist’s microscope.
Beneath that microscope I have suffered far too long,
enduring the relentless scrutiny of my diminutive body.
I am tired of never-ending demands for perfection,
of being another pathology to be cured.
Put away the microscopes, the anticipation, and the longing.
Each day is a blessing for me to enjoy in quiet solitude.
At rest, I ask myself why did I ever demand more?
“Were you on Unit 42 after your last surgery?”
I hear the nurse ask as I regain consciousness.
“No,” I mumble in slow motion through a thick fog.
I’m transported on a gurney, oblivious to the fact that
it’s early evening and my destination is the cancer ward.
I arrive and the darkness welcomes me on a deep
winter night, a crushing stillness surrounds me.
A compression bandage covers my fresh incision,
I reach down to touch my surgeon’s trademark.
My mother arrives and I have nurse Crystal.
A morphine pump to control my pain.
My throat is parched and I ask for water.
Not yet, Crystal calmly removes my glass.
For those below it’s simply another December night.
The world is turning, only two weeks until Christmas.
Outside an endless stream of headlights pressing in unison
toward some crucial or important goal.