In the Middle of Cancer

I thought I wouldn't be myself anymore
just on the edge of all that chemo,
which I walked, step by infusion

for months, scared but mostly
tired, bored, thrashing in the tangle
of small and large irritations. Unable

to sleep at night, I sat up at 2 a.m.,
the sky swirling with tiny particles of light
in the vast field of snow, voles and rabbits,

later vanished in stray strands of sunlight.
I turned to wait out pain in surprising bones,
the abrupt reverse of drowning

when coming out of anesthesia,
vomiting into the small pan a kind nurse held,
my legs still kicking for no apparent reason

before walking back to the world. The corridor
lined itself with locked forests and waiting rooms
where the sailboat paintings mocked us all

until I could turn my eyes to a mirror,
no longer the one still staring,
but the one being watched.

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About the Author

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam's Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
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