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SHOWTIME

The nice doctor says
Your cancer is good for three episodes.
There now, don't cry -
You've got the compensation
Of a tear in the public eye,
And a five hundred percent certain
Miracle cure -
Tense, maybe painful,
But certainly a success. And afterwards,
Tears, flowers, a perfumed sun,
His deodorized smile,
A wedding white -

White, white, white,
Cancer is clean and white,
White starch, white sheets, white wings;
Cancer is clean and white -
And morphine is the purest form of sanity.

In the year 2005, at the age of 48, looking at this poem written in 1979, back when I was aged 22, I find it interesting how cancer features in my imagination: as high drama, but as someone else's drama, remote and unreal. Underwritten by a sense of horror: the "five hundred percent certain" and the truth is that the cancer experience is going to be a siege of agony, hence "morphine is the purest form of sanity".

And now it's April 2005 and I myself am going to hospital on a semi-regular basis to be treated for cancer, which, at this stage of the treatment, involves chemotherapy, which entails lying in bed for five days or so at a time with one or more intravenous drips running into my arm.

No pain for me, I'm glad to say, though I do sometimes end up sharing my four-bed ward with other patients who are having a rougher ride, and who are on morphine. No pain and, really, no drama: as the days wear on, the problems are not riding the adrenalin rush (there isn't any) but coping with the two problems that just about everyone seems to have difficulty with when they endure this form of imprisonment: boredom and hospital food.

Out of my mature experience, the cancer experience of 2005, I've written a chemotherapy poem. Back in 2004, when I knew that cancer was one possible diagnosis for the problems I was having, the thought that went through my head was, "If so, then this will be a descent into hell."

But I'm here to bear witness that, while some people do have a rough ride, and while I certainly wouldn't be lining up to participate if I didn't have to, the reality is lot more manageable than the monstrosities that were lurking in my imagination.


CHEMOTHERAPY

This is not the fireworks show.
This is the fifth cycle:
The repetition of the repetitive.
Chemotherapy:


This poem SHOWTIME was first published in Craccum in Auckland, New Zealand, on 1979 March 26. The poem and the accompanying notes were first posted online by Hugh Cook on 2005 May 21 Saturday. Copyright © 1979, 2005 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.

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