Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

If I spoke any language other than
yours, I might be able to say it whole,
as a poem: non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
If my ears could hear sounds apart from years
of your wonder, I might delight in the
diagnosis: the alliteration
of poor prognosis patient . These are soft,
innocuous tones-tender syllables
in and of themselves. Were I moved by a
meter other than the beat of your heart,
I’d hear iambic run through the doctor’s
order: aggressive chemotherapy.
I have tried to find a rhythm in the
in and out of liquids and needles. I
have tried to find a scheme in ups and downs
of vital signs. Surely there’s meaning in
the pattern of sweats and bedpans, lumps and
catscans, coming and going for treatment.
I want to understand the metaphors in
and baldness, in fevers and pain.
If I did not know so many of your
lines by heart, I would not falter over
these. I would stand up and read them aloud.