What Are the Odds?

CAT scans don’t have long whiskers
that tickle your face in the morning,
don’t wrap themselves around your legs
when you get home
like they can’t imagine a world
without you.

CAT scans don’t care
that your EpiPen needs to be
at the ready, just in case
your body decides the heat is too much,
the contrast dye doing its job.

CAT scans don’t know
if cancer is living inside you,
how many times you have been
tested or what the odds are
that pieces of you are undetected,

CAT scans can see you
as you lay under your flowered comforter
at home,
before your feet touch hospital floors.
You take long breaths
but you never get enough
air back in.

The needle, the tube, the lights
the heat—still watching,
never blinking.
Not when the moon settles in
for the night
or when and you dare to dream
that this is so simple,
just another test.



Four Little Pills

Even if the meds work,
the hives pop up
like garden vegetables,
the roots stretching and starving
for water,

but at least you know
now there is life
under all that scratching.

The red rash reminds you
you’re made up of animal shapes
and foods you can’t name,
the artwork of disease.

As you breathe, the shapes
change and you feel the rise
and fall of a possible flare,
an almost always feeling
of being on the edge.

And if you make it through the day
without feeling the changing season
grow inside you,
then something is working
in those four little pills.

Hello, New Spot

You are one of many
until I’m 40, the doctor said,
head to toe but not the face
unless I’m unlucky.
Not sure which category
I fall into.

Lucky that only I can see you
and wonder if I’ll look back
and remember how small
you are, how unnoticeable.
Unlucky that maybe one day
once you really know me,
you’ll take over my body,
stretch out your redness

until I no longer
can be me without you.
But maybe I’m already not me
without you.


Bone Marrow Biopsy and Chances You Have

The needle goes all the way in,
but you’re numb
first and just when you think
it is deep enough,
it goes even deeper,
scraping out who you are
and what you’re made of and maybe
they will find something,
a piece of you that you can’t get
to know over the phone
or on the couch late at night
watching a movie with extra buttered
popcorn and who am I to think
I didn’t need to be seen
under a microscope?

If they find nothing
then what are you complaining about,
what do you have to show
for all the red-faced tossing and turning
and could this be something more–
could we be something more
than bodies who don’t listen?

My doctor’s eyes
are the kind of blue you only find
in the middle of the ocean
and in them I see a long needle
and the chances I will remember
just how deep this goes.

Note to Self

“Try to avoid triggers,”
my doctor says, articles bold,
labels read,
Try to avoid
heat and pressure and changes
in temperature.

Note to self:
Cancel all your meetings
because you can’t be
in a small conference room
with the door shut.
And make building maintenance
shut off the heat above
your cube.

Skip over Spring
and never get in the car
when it is forty degrees outside
and the heat is blasting.
Sell your winter coat
because you only ever need it when
you forget it, anyways.

Don’t let him hold you
under the covers
or put his hand on your leg.
Aim the fan at your face
even in January
because your bodies are still

Throw a sheet over the sun
and live inside this summer.
There is no such thing as the beach
and there’s nothing good
about things in the light.

No bonfires for you either—
Flames shouldn’t lick you,
only your cat should.

Back under the covers, you have
nowhere else to go.
You let him hold you anyways
because if anything is a trigger,
you’re glad it’s him.


It started in high school

Friends told me to stop wearing shirts
that are too high up. Don’t hide
your skin, show off the change
in you and wear everything lace.

My closet was full of what I wasn’t
supposed to wear, so I stayed
the same and hoped I’d transform
by moonlight or something.

I woke up one morning with welts,
giant pulsing welts all over
my neck like I was stung
by a family of wasps.
But I’m not allergic to anything,
and wouldn’t I know myself
by now?

Can’t wear high collar shirts.
Nothing can touch
my neck
without the burning rash.

Out in the open, I am someone else
and my friends tell me to show off
those red welts
because they are my red welts.