Love Under Threat of Cancer by Larina Warnock

Love Under Threat of Cancer

1. The Night of the Call Back

We lay facing each other, smothering
ourselves by ticking off things we know
and things we don’t want to
suspect. Whatever they’ve seen is small yet.
It could be nothing; statistics provide
hope, genetic testing an educated guess.
We start to talk about the family history, but instead
fall into silence, as if our voices might carry the violence
of a positive diagnosis even before biopsy.
We start to talk about my random fevers, my fatigue,
other symptomology we’ve not seen in the normal
course of autoimmune disease. Tears take over
like tangible, existential philosophy. We make
love, every touch ten times as powerful
as radiation. You are more present to me
than you have ever been, your hands upon my skin
caressing cancer away.

2. The Night Before Ultrasound

We have held ourselves together by threads made
more of magic than science. We have repeated
the reasons it cannot be a tumor a thousand times.
I breathe you in as if this one intake of breath
can hold me upright through chemotherapy or whatever
waits on the other side of tomorrow. Our lovemaking
echoes with sorrow, what we’ve already lost together
so present twe don’t dare hope and we don’t dare not to.

3. The Night of the All Clear

Somewhere in the back of our minds, we are cautious.
Family history has shown it’s just a matter of time
before time catches up. You cup my breast in your hand
and kiss me the way you did the first time, nervously,
as if afraid I might slip away. But I am present tonight
and will be tomorrow. We burrow into each other
knowing hope is a hoax for people like us.
Knowing hope is all we’ve ever had.

by Larina Warnock

Twitter: @thedocnock

Editor’s Note: People who live with a chronic illness know deep in their bones that another terrible diagnosis is always a possibility. This poem deals with what life is like with that monolithic dread looming just over the horizon.

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