My heart is a sun, fueled by cytotoxins,
burning the palms of my hands
from the inside out. And now they’re peeling
like old wallpaper—not in long, neat strips
like the skin discarded by a garter snake,
having wriggled out of it as if a too tight dress—
but in thin strips at the pads of my fingers,
the joints, my palm. No, not wallpaper—
more like moth-eaten wool blankets
or paint taking leave of an old window frame.
My palms are as tattered as Miss Havisham’s
yellowed wedding dress. Rags for sale!
my grandfather would call out joyfully,
me slung over his shoulder. I’ve never
looked more the part. Beneath the shreds,
new skin emerges, red as a bawling baby
meeting the world for the first time.
How purifying is cancer! What you thought
you needed to be you turns out not
to be essential after all. The only thing
that truly matters is your heart, that small,
bright star guiding you back to you.
Editor’s Note: The first line of this poem plunges you into an unexpected treatise on illness and joy and survival.