In the church I am making
of Creticos Cancer Center,
I am in my purple pew,
my face, as I recline
my solitary bench, lifting
toward heaven, wood-slatted
and perfectly pleasant,
my hands at my side, upturned
and open as eager collection baskets.
Like any late-night reveler compelled
to an early service, I may doze
now and again, though I haven’t
been a reveler now for nearly
the number of years as Christ
roamed our mortal marble.
Between unextraordinary slumbers,
I watch a man find salvation, on my small screen,
from a Zen octopus in a forest of quivering kelp.
The miracle of wonder has tentacles everywhere.
Embedded in my chest, a port—a portal,
smaller than a communion wafer—
accepts the sacrament of chemo
from the altar of science. Much as Jesus
was changed to a bit of brittle bread,
my own known body is transforming
into some kind of mystic other.
All around me, a choir of the faithful
confess their fears, their flaws, their habits
to their guardian nurses, those shepherds
of survival, and though each of us
are in our own boxes, the voices mingle,
and there’s a kind of congregation in that.
Despite the hovering specter of malady,
peace wafts over us like the tired smoke
from a swaying, sacred smudge pot.
Throughout the hours of my devotion
to this baptism by Paclitaxel, the nurses
flow, murmuring riverlike, from patient
to patient, task to task, flow sweet
and blessed as Holy Water.
Editor’s Note: Sometimes the most unexpected places can become sacred, as this poem demonstrates. The different sections allow for easy reading, mirroring formal prayer with images and thoughtful reflection.