A quiet evening. Dark. And rain outside –
They say we’ll get four inches before dawn.
I’m in the kitchen while she sleeps upstairs.
Another day of biopsies. x-rays,
of ultrasounds and needles for the pain:
she’s not supposed to pick up anything.
I’m cooking, listening to Keren Ann
whose voice reminds of Paris in the Spring
how many years ago in rain like this:
“The only things I still know how to make
are water ripples on the waveless Seine.”
And me? I’m making rice and eggs. Young James
still has an appetite, and needs to eat.
Outside, the rain keeps falling, and the wind
moves through the leafless trees of early May.
I stand and stare at nothing, at the wind
I cannot see into this foreign dark
where songs and shadows merge with endless rain.
She takes off all her jewelry: first a ring
acquired from her mother years ago,
another from her son on her right hand –
she loves them both. They easily come off.
Next come the bangles: one of corded gold
braided in grecian patterns without clasps
another, mirror finished, with a dent
of unknown origins, reflective still
of everything around her in small spheres.
No metal is allowed in the machine.
Off comes her pearl necklace. Then she hands
each piece to me. I place them in a round
container with a lid and close it tight
swearing to guard it till the test is done:
there’s fifty thousand dollars in that box.
And yet she can’t remove her wedding ring.
The nurse says not to worry. She goes in
and disappears behind the closing doors.
We think we’re gods. Don’t laugh. You know it’s true:
we think we’ll dance forever and a day
we can’t believe we’ll die and disappear.
We give lip service to mortality
but can’t imagine nothingness. Our books
have just one theme: ‘remember, you are dust
all is illusion, the ten thousand things
turn in their gyres without you: surrender.’
We don’t believe them. Deep within our hearts,
we cannot leave our deep loves or ourselves.
‘The world won’t miss you’ Heidegger once said,
‘but you will miss you.’ In the cancer ward
so many rooms encompass private lives
behind glass sliding doors. As things progress
the gaps grow smaller till the doors are closed.
We think we’re gods. We know we give off light
and hope to bathe the luminescent Earth
like fireflies who dance until the dawn.
When W.F. Lantry’s wife, Kate, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in April 2022, she asked him to write one poem a day, to chronicle her journey. He’s kept it up through all the biopsies and ultrasounds, two courses of chemo, surgery and at this writing the beginning of radiation. The first volume of these poems, The Cancer Diaries – Book One: Flood Warning appeared in January 2023. His other poetry collections are The Terraced Mountain (Little Red Tree 2015), The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012), winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, and The Language of Birds (2011). He received his PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize, Crucible Editors’ Poetry Prize, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (Israel), Comment Magazine Poetry Award (Canada), Paris/Atlantic Young Writers Award (France), Old Red Kimono Paris Lake Poetry Prize and Potomac Review Prize. He is the editor of Peacock Journal.