In the chemo chair
The space between you and the world
Is bridged daily by the calico cat,
Who purrs you into a semblance
Of breath, which the yoga teacher
Herself would aspire to.
But there you are, brimming over
With thoughts, and piling
Words into the spaces that you had
Planned to keep wide open.
And all the while Chopin makes music
Sound like rain on the woolshed roof,
Under which you lay huddled in
The greasy bale, where you allowed yourself to be.
Where you opened your arms to the sky.
Margaret shaves my head
With slow delicate sweeps
Of the silver shaver.
Her face in our shared reflection
Has fine soft lines
Where her smile sits.
You won’t know yourself
With your new wig,
Margaret says gently,
And she’s right.
This play of ours
Take away the white coat and the stethoscope.
Are you as naked as I am?
This play we rehearse has such quaint roles.
You cut a striking figure as the leading man.
I set the scene in the waiting room, but
My supporting role is barely worth a glance.
You walk through your sterile lines
With your practiced look of empathy.
Not knowing as the amateur would know,
Improvisation would open me as a flower.
No matter; no stage direction will explain.
I am far away. Running through canola fields.
Spicy carrot and parsnip soup sits in a bowl.
I time the microwave oven to 2:00
But just when it has 15 seconds to go,
I hit the Stop/Cancel button twice, in quick succession.
Why did you stop it early?
Your voice arrives behind me in that tone
You’ve found to mark my descent into helplessness.
It won’t be hot enough now, you say,
As you manoeuvre around me,
Taking command of the whole soup situation.
I wish you would let me help you, you say.
It’s not a failure to accept help, you know.
You’ve spent your life helping others,
Now it’s our turn to help you.
The microwave pings in agreement.
Actually, I don’t feel like soup, I say,
Dry retching as I walk away.
The whispered confession before you died,
Was the first time you had spoken of your father’s sin.
Your fear of dying had nothing to do with the living,
It was all about the terror of meeting him again.
The priest held your hand, spoke of a god who offers
Safety and salvation to all; you sighed peacefully,
And slipped away, left us to your deathly silence,
To the detritus that goes with the end.
Tidying away your life, I wondered if you believed
That the god who could not keep you safe on earth,
Would so easily do so in heaven? Or if your sigh was for
The priest, who foolishly spoke of forgiveness.
Heather Cameron is a poet with a particular interest in autopathography and elegy. Her work as a healthcare professional as well as her personal experiences with cancer has led her to write poetry exploring a wide range of themes centred around loss and grief. She has recently completed a collection of poetry as part of her creative arts PhD at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia.
Just came across by chance and your poem really struck deep . Been through the chemo but myself too and writing . ThanksReplyDelete