How not to imagine the tumors ripening beneath his skin, flesh I have kissed, stroked with my fingertips, pressed my belly and breasts against, some nights so hard I thought I could enter him, open his back at the spine like a door or a curtain and slip in like a small fish between his ribs, nudge the coral of his brains with my lips, brushing over the blue coil of his bowels with the fluted silk of my tail.
It seems to me that we can't explain all the truly awful things in the world like war and murder and brain tumors, and we can't fix these things, so we look at the frightening things that are closer to us and we magnify them until they burst open. Inside is something that we can manage, something that isn't as awful as it had a first seemed. It is a relief to discover that although there might be axe murderers and kidnappers in the world, most people seem a lot like us: sometimes afraid and sometimes brave, sometimes cruel and sometimes kind.
This is your war now.' I despised myself for the cheesy sentiment, but what else did I have? 'Some war, ' he said dismissively. 'What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They're made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war, Hazel Graze, with a predetermined winner.
And then we were kissing. My hand let go of the oxygen cart and I reached up for his neck, and he pulled me up by my waist onto my tiptoes. As his parted lips met mine, I started to feel breathless in a new and fascinating way. The space around us evaporated, and for a weird moment I really liked my body, this cancer-ruined thing I'd spent years dragging around suddenly seemed worth the struggle, worth the chest tubes and PICC lines and the ceaseless bodily betrayal of the tumors.
The fundamental act of medical care is assumption of responsibility. Surgery has assumed responsibility for disease which is largely acute, local or traumatic. This is responsibility for the entire range of injuries and wounds, local infections, benign and malignant tumors, as well as a large fraction of those pathologic processes and anomalies which are localized in the organs of the body. The study of surgery is a study of these diseases, the conditions and details of their care.
Francis Daniels Moore
THIS SECOND VERSE ISN'T FOR YOUR EARS THIS SECOND VERSE IS TO CALM MY FEARS IS IT RIGHT TO PUT A KID ON THE PLANET OR SHOULD I LISTEN TO VONNEGUT AND SAY GOD DAMN IT I HEAR RUMORS, SEE TUMORS, HEAR LIES, HEAR FACTS I SEE THE CONSTRUCTION FOR THEIR CONCENTRATION CAMPS IS IT TRUE, SHOULD WE FIGHT IT, OR IS IT FALSE? ARE THEY GONNA WATCH THE WORLD FALL AS THEY PLAY GOLF I'M OFF, TO A NEW EXISTENCE CAUSE THERE'S GOTTA BE ANOTHER PLANET OUT THERE THAT'S DIFFERENT UNPLUG YOUR EARS NEPHEWS THIS ONE IS FOR YOU TURN OFF THAT TV THOSE LIES WILL SPOIL YOU YOU GOTTA LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY YOU GOTTA FORGIVE EVENTUALLY NEVER GO TO WAR NEGATIVITY IS SCARY THE LOVE THAT YOU WITHHOLD IS THE PAIN THAT YOU CARRY
Reading Aloud to My Father I chose the book haphazard from the shelf, but with Nabokov's first sentence I knew it wasn't the thing to read to a dying man: The cradle rocks above an abyss, it began, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. The words disturbed both of us immediately, and I stopped. With music it was the same - Chopin's Piano Concerto - he asked me to turn it off. He ceased eating, and drank little, while the tumors briskly appropriated what was left of him. But to return to the cradle rocking. I think Nabokov had it wrong. This is the abyss. That's why babies howl at birth, and why the dying so often reach for something only they can apprehend. At the end they don't want their hands to be under the covers, and if you should put your hand on theirs in a tentative gesture of solidarity, they'll pull the hand free; and you must honor that desire, and let them pull it free.
GONE TO STATIC it sounds better than it is, this business of surviving, making it through the wrong place at the wrong time and living to tell. when the talk shows and movie credits wear off, it's just me and my dumb luck. this morning I had that dream again: the one where I'm dead. I wake up and nothing's much different. everything's gone sepia, a dirty bourbon glass by the bed, you're still dead. I could stumble to the shower, scrub the luck of breath off my skin but it's futile. the killer always wins. it's just a matter of time. and I have time. I have grief and liquor to fill it. tonight, the liquor and I are talking to you. the liquor says, 'remember' and I fill in the rest, your hands, your smile. all those times. remember. tonight the liquor and I are telling you about our day. we made it out of bed. we miss you. we were surprised by the blood between our legs. we miss you. we made it to the video store, missing you. we stopped at the liquor store hoping the bourbon would stop the missing. there's always more bourbon, more missing tonight, when we got home, there was a stray cat at the door. she came in. she screams to be touched. she screams when I touch her. she's right at home. not me. the whisky is open the vcr is on. I'm running the film backwards and one by one you come back to me, all of you. your pulses stutter to a begin your eyes go from fixed to blink the knives come out of your chests, the chainsaws roar out from your legs your wounds seal over your t-cells multiply, your tumors shrink the maniac killer disappears it's just you and me and the bourbon and the movie flickering together and the air breathes us and I am home, I am lucky I am right before everything goes black