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Living With Cancer


ISSUE:  Autumn 1997

Who says there is no healing? Just the other morning
my cousin showed me her saline breasts. In a matter of weeks
the nipples will be tattooed on. Size double C, she smirks.
Just like my adolescent dream. So it doesn’t hurt
when the body screams, she becomes a body without a mind,
a mind without a body. Like a letter without an envelope,
an envelope with no message inside. That’s how I see
life, she says. Sometimes, her breasts have phantom
pains. And leak imaginary milk when the baby cries.

After chemo, she forgets whose baby it is. And whose body
she’s in. Her lips travel the air as wings. We feel them
kiss us like dry stalks or leaves. Nights I imagine her
hovering in the doorway, though it’s only the dreams
gliding everywhere. Like strands of hair, they come loose

at the source. While the surgeon’s hands move behind her skin,
we wait, reading the manual of new age miracles, a dying man’s
last vision seen by X-ray, a one-way window through which
the dead look back and see only a child’s ballet. At last
we are ushered from the waiting room to join the other members
of the blond family running across the cover of the slick
magazine, Living with Cancer. We, too, could be endlessly
racing on a green meadow without a drop of sky I.V.-ed in.

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