Getting The Date

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I spin you round in my arms
as we make the teddy bears
dizzy to Basement Jaxx.
You want to go faster and faster
till we collapse in giggles on the bed.

It’s strange to think next week
I won’t be able to do this.
Like imagining winter in summer,
hospital is a season I have forgotten.

You ask me, ‘What does bad guy cancer do?’
So many questions I have no idea
how to answer. You’re three years old,
the most important thing is that one day soon
we will dance together again.

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To be back in those echoing corridors,
the photographs that move, the random piano
and the closed coffee shops. I’d forgotten
the hush of evening after the visitors have left.
I can almost see my ghost waiting in a leather chair.

I consider running and never stopping.
I listen to her tell how I’ll wake in a small room
surrounded by scary machines, all tubes and drains.
The importance of sitting up, the disinfectant gel,
the bear hug blanket and the need for a fan.
Someone asks a question about death,
the crowd holds its breath. I’m not sure I can do this.

Then there’s the topless women in crowded rooms,
laughing and happy to answer questions.
She says she has three small children,
she says I can touch them if I want.
Strange how quickly the surreal becomes normal.
I open my mind to the possibility of implants.
There is the kindness of a lift home.

I am no longer alone in the hospital,
I am one of many who survive this.

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You prefer to close your eyes,
to go down into the basement.
A room at first so alien and frightening,
but then day in, day out,
there are the nurses and friends made
and a familiarity that is almost home.

You’d rather be sent back up
into a world that is full of light
and noise and life. You wear a watch
because the waiting is endless.
The next appointment, the next test,
the eternal rooms of frightened faces.
Silence occasionally broken by a phone ringing,
someone’s too loud recollection of horror.

Your son gave you one of his worry dolls
because you were always a worrier
even before cancer gave you a reason to sweat.
He wasn’t judging, he kept one for himself
and held you tighter than you’ve ever been held.
You painted a vase for a friend because you always
wanted to be an artist somehow and to say
thank you for keeping you from shattering.

When you feel low, you treat yourself
to the world of hats. You never knew before
how a teal fedora could make strangers smile.
You are always standing at a miniature cross roads,
the possibilities held together by blue tack.
Your bra a secret sorrow of lace, pretty if painful.

You confess to an addiction to lip balm,
your legs supported through lymph walking.
Sketches in a notebook, dozens of small boxes
that hold windows full of Northern lights,
sea and mountains and sky, herons flying,
a guitar played by a boy, a family tea party
you are still invited to. Some kind of choice.