Anyway, I woke up this morning with the urge to write a poem about cancer. The urge may have come because I’m still grieving, still going through that process, with my brain having said to me, “Write a fucking poem, man. You’ll feel better.” Or it may have been triggered by the death of Victoria Wood, the latest celebrity victim of breast cancer, at an age so close to Alison’s. Victoria’s loss was particularly poignant because we both enjoyed her gentle humour.
Whatever the cause of the urge, here’s the poem. It doesn’t rhyme and it doesn’t scan, but it comes from the heart.
I’ve felt the thing stir in the dead of night,
Slinking and slithering like a coward
Through the slumbering form of a loved one,
Gnawing on her bones, midnight feasting
On her lungs and kidneys and liver –
Oh, such delicacies!
I’ve seen the thing creeping silently
Along hushed hospital corridors,
Seeking out its victims and growling,
“This one will suffer and this one and this.
I’ll give them hope first, then snatch it away –
Oh, such fun!”
I’ve heard the thing throw out its challenges.
“Bring on your new drugs,” it cries.
“I’ll move faster than the blink of an eye
To retreat and regroup and strike elsewhere.
I’ll be undefeated once more –
Oh, such a game!”
I’ve felt and seen and heard the thing.
I know its power and invincibility,
So I’ll wait until it comes for me,
Praying for courage and dignity in its face.
Unless… unless they stop the wars and find a cure –
Oh, such a dream!