I’m normally very protective of my poetry, but I’m posting this one as text and protecting it with a Creative Commons License* in hopes you will share this with your communities so it can reach someone who needs to read it.
*You may copy and distribute it any way you like as long as you attribute it to me and don’t alter it.
Serefina reads over my shoulder
My cat has a tumor under her eye.
It looks just like a ripe cranberry.
She’s seventeen years old,
eighty-five in human years.
Given her age,
even a biopsy would be risky.
So there’s not much to do but watch it grow.
My brother had Kaposi’s sarcomas
all over his face.
We went to the pizza parlor and the deli once.
He was totally unself-conscious
as were the food workers who
greeted him like an old friend.
My wife has a lump in her breast.
You can’t see it.
You can’t even feel it.
You wouldn’t know she had cancer to look at her.
She embraces it
as a source of blessings,
and it has been already,
only just embarking on her
twenty weeks of chemo.
She’ll be just fine,
but even so, she teaches me
how to embrace life.
My tumor is even less visible.
It’s a virtual tumor,
hidden in code amid ganglions of nerves.
It’s the voice in my head that
urges me to destroy myself,
the voice that says things like
What’s the use?
I can’t take one more day.
I need a fix.
I just want to die
or (on a good day)
I just want to sleep.
Back to my kitty:
she seems to be comfortable enough.
She still purrs
but she seems to sense her days are numbered,
and she responds by coming to me for love
and petting and skritching
every chance she gets,
like she wants to get the most out of life
while she can.
I used to let my daughters give her the attention.
Now my girls are grown up
and kitty and I are close as father and daughter.
We are treasuring each day we have left together.
I didn’t get enough time with Bob, but
unless something goes terribly wrong,
Carol and I will have another twenty years,
and we will treasure every day of that, too.
Because when it comes right down to it,
life is all about the skritch.
That’s what Carol and Serefina are teaching me.
And that voice in my head that wants me to die?
I don’t hear it much these days.
© 2014 Douglas J. Westberg. Please reblog, share, copy, distribute at will with appropriate attribution, but do not alter.
Virtual Tumor by Doug Westberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.