This is a poem I wrote before I knew I had cancer. I don’t have time anymore to wait for gatekeepers to decide if my poem/essay/manuscript is good enough. Cancer has taught me I never really had that time.


Sometimes it’s not even a closet.
It could be the shell of a giant, old tire
half-sunk in the playground.
Some kid sings
come out come out wherever you are…
and suddenly it’s Harvey Milk’s voice.
You remind yourself things happen,
and you might as well feel them
and get it over with.
You put one hand in front of the other
and relish the callouses on your palms,
make a contest with yourself
to see how thick they can grow.
This is the land of unbroken bones,
the forest of teeth that grow back.
This is a place I never existed.

Or it could be an elevator
going up, door closing
in the face of a person
who asks too many questions
and rejects all the answers.
I stare at my reflection.
I say, “You don’t owe
anyone a fucking thing.”
But my reflection only shivers,
looks tired. On full elevators,
I estimate the total weight of our bodies,
cringe at each shudder as we ascend,
having grown used to things falling.
This is the land of measurement,
the board too small for all its pieces.
This is the place of silver linings.

Sometimes it’s a semi-hidden path
that leads to a view of water,
which stretches out and out.
The foliage presses in, gently,
and I can finally, for a moment, breathe.
I like the crunch my shoes make
on the small pebbles and packed earth,
the shape of my sole in the dirt,
proof that I’m here. I take a selfie
to prove that I existed.
This is the land of the inevitable,
the game of paper rock scissors,
where nothing beats paper.
This is the city of homes
the wind scatters.

Once in a lifetime, it seems,
it’s a place to sit under a slice of blue.
A wild cat visits, sometimes
bringing a fat kitten. I watch
the tiny paws discover each new thing.
Close but not too close.
I wonder what the kitten calls themself.
I watch the birds hop from tree to tree,
trading secrets.
It suddenly feels as though
I’ve stepped outside all language,
an animal just being,
a heart just beating.
I wonder how I got here,
how long I’ll get to stay.

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