That year of internship in medicine
we ran around all over saving lives—
or so it seemed. Resuscitations fail.
Survivors could be comatose or else
confused and could not tell me who they were,
let alone who I was. Who was I
in those starched whites, running to put out fires
which still burn, flames seen in the night?

A Trio of Breast Cancer Stories


Angie was a racer.
Raced cars. The faster, the better. Afraid of nothing, not even
the knot in her breast
the size of a lug nut and about as hard.
If she drove fast enough
it might just pop loose someday.
Drive fast enough, you know,
and things fly right out of a car.
You see lots of debris on the track.
Centrifugal force.
Things just go flying. Gone.

After watching her grandmother go through this,
it was the one cancer she was most afraid of.
Even the label on her favorite bottle of wine
a sketch of two mountains in silhouette
sure looked like breasts to her now.
Hard to see only mountains anymore.

When they said her breast cancer had spread,
Lucille wondered what would happen next.
Is that like cloning? Her breast is making more breasts?
But in the wrong places now?
Is that like when the birds carry seeds
and drop them anywhere, like into someone else’s garden?


Class of 2023

My sister Jess takes a generous
amount of ibuprofen for her cramps
and there are often rogue ibuprofens
floating around her dresser drawers,
coat pockets, the cup holders of her
car, under her bed.

My two little nieces were in her
bedroom one evening and they
pulled a conch shell from her
nightstand and began admiring it.
A snail used to live in there, Jess told
them while folding a pair of pants,
and they looked at her in disbelief
and with wide eyes before returning
their attention to the shell, turning
it over in their hands. When they
turned it one way, something clinked
inside and a crusty ibuprofen fell
out and onto the bed. They both fell
silent and looked at it curiously. Jess
glanced up from her basket of clean
laundry. That’s an ibuprofen, she
told them.

One niece picked up the ibuprofen
slowly and held it up to the light
between two fingers while the other
looked closely at it, squinting her
eyes. The snail became an eye-bee-
profen, the one holding it said.