Cancer

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, December 2017
Judged by Michael Larrain


In your delirium you spoke,
the morphine drip supplying the muse.

Crows are standing in a field of white mud,
leaving hieroglyphs for the clouds to read.
No, they are standing above the mud,
they are flying without their wings.
They are fighting over the body
of some kind of animal
flattened by a tire, smashed by something
it couldn’t see coming, it’s sacrifice
enough to keep the murder going.

As you talked I bathed your grey body
with a sponge afraid your skin might come off
at my touch, felt the cold of your limbs against
the warmth my hand absorbed from the soapy water.
I washed around the ports in your abdomen
that drained the infections, the port in your chest
that took in the drugs that no longer worked,
felt the lumps like those small hills in Greece
where we spent our honeymoon overlooking the Aegean.

Yes it was blue, crystalline blue
like the topaz of your eyes,
the ring I gave you after our first child,
the coldness that overtakes me.
I am nothing now, nothing
but a thin vessel of air,
a soul with barely a body. When I drift off
into the wind toward that other place,
when I am no longer with you
I will send a message, an unexpected
message of love. You’ll keep wondering
is that my sign everywhere you look–
the green eyes of a cat, the hummingbird stilled
in mid-flight, the unknown boy who stops
you in the street and asks for a hug–
is that my sign as year after year goes by.

Hurry, the crows are hungry.


It is not only that the painful material is handled with such great sensitivity and grace, but that by use of the alternating voices—the caretaker’s and the perishing beloved’s—we are granted entry into the intolerable anguish of this parting, and into the search for solace. Because it is dramatized, we too are living this dying. This is love at the end: The caretaker nearly paralyzed with the knowledge that we can do nothing to save the one who means the most to us, the beloved stretched between this world and the next, making plans for a playful haunting. The poem is simple and eloquent in its admission—we are all “smashed by something we couldn’t see coming.” And when we can see it coming, it still does no earthly good. A sweet lesson is implied: Be tender for as long as you can. Keep the crows waiting for a while. their turn will come. --Michael Larrain

  • December 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Cancer
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      The Abandoned Woman
      by Midnight Moon
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Taking a Tumble
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea

  • November 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Hope Springs Like a Panther from a Large Boulder Overhead
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Lullaby
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Love Story
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block