What you realize

What You Realize When Cancer Comes

You will not live forever—No
you will not, for a ceiling of clouds
hovers in the sky.

You are not as brave
as you once thought.
Sounds of death
echo in your chest.

You feel the bite of pain,
the taste of it running
through you.

Following the telling to friends
comes a silence of
felt goodbyes. You come to know
the welling of tears.

Your children are stronger
than you thought and
closer to your skin.

The beauty of animals
birds on telephone lines,
dogs who look into your eyes,
all bring you peace.

You want no more confusion
than what already rises
in your head and heart.

You watch television less,
will never read all those books,
much less the ones
you have.

Songs can move you now, so that
you want to hold onto the words
like the hands of children.

Your own hands look good to you.
old and familiar
as water.

You read your lover’s skin
like a road map
into yourself.

All touch is precious now.

There are echoes

in the words thrown
before you.

When they take your picture now
you wet your lips, swallow once
and truly smile.

Talk of your lost parents
pulls you out, and
brings you home again.

You are in a river
flowing in and through you.
Take a breath. Reach out your arms.
You can survive.

A river is flowing
flowing in and through you.
Take a breath. Reach out your arms
.

“What You Realize When Cancer Comes” by Larry Smith, from A River Remains. © WordTech Editions.

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