by Yael Flusberg

Barely a life, it might take months to form curves large enough to detect with sonar

or magnetic resonance
until doctors feel confident to suggest small footsteps
in one direction or the other.

Everyone’s diagnosis is the same. We’ll all eventually die;
we lie about when, or what
we’ll achieve before that final trip.

We imagine the end will be larger than life, forget the delayed baggage and long flights, all
that down time, recorded

meditations, session after session, trying to rid ourselves not just
of the malignancy in our midst but what is left behind

each time a new variation visits. Most of us will not choose a place with spectacular sights,
but the ordinary sides:

moonface, bloated belly, rusted joints, praying the main course will treat what aged garlic and shitake broths cannot cure. There will be lymphatic

drainage and all classes of machines, delivering ozone and infrared, unpronounceable cocktail infusions, or those whose names remind

us of Japanese cinematic monsters
conceived as metaphors for nuclear weapons.
Cancer is war. We battle as though we can save the world.

In truth, the medicine might buy a few more precious months –
a summer at the beach,
the chance to establish residency

in a permissive state to swallow 100 orange seconals emptied into sweet juice and drink
in close company once

the undergrowth has overtaken
life’s small pleasures.

I was born into a room filled with any number of technicians,
pain-killing capsules and surgical incisions. Shielded
from my mother’s skin
by closed curtains ensuring a hygienic operating field.

When death comes, let it be messy.
Let it be in a room cluttered with freshly cut flowers that will outlive me, barely.

Let it be in a room where the husband
of my middle age can rub oil into my feet and a small cat can purr through
that last small gate.