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5 Poems

by Charles Phelps-Penry

    No introduction
    no knock on the door
    no polite cough or tug at the elbow
    Just creeps in
    unseen, insinuates itself
    invisible and
    Bides its time
    lurking darkly
    a chancer, a spiv looking for a break
    When it finds a good grip
    it clings on for dear life
    my dear life
  2. ME & IT
    I have cancer.
    Three words you never want
    to have to say.
    3 small words,
    so hard to get out,
    you want to spit out,
    wish I could shit out.
    I have cancer.
    Uninvited, unwelcome. Yes, so fucking what!
    No, cancer has me.
    Cancer has me to deal with.
    Going to make it regret finding me.
    No taste on my tongue,
    my skin tastes different
    everything's like eating mud,
    don't recognize food,
    sense of smell deceives me,
    eat to fuel myself
    waves of tiredness,
    drop to sleep at a moment's notice,
    finished by a walk
    wake up at all hours
    peeing for my country
    Can't concentrate for more than 15 minutes,
    feel rimbambito
    nausea creeps up unsuspected,
    fear of swallowing anything,
    the tablets that are curing me,
    even simple water
    Side aches,
    the wound is closed and healing well
    but reminds me it's not done
    my wife cries when she sees me down,
    what am I doing to her?
    16 days to go, just 384 hours and then?
    Freedom or doubt?
    Up to me now I guess
  4. BLOOD
    vitally viscous
    coursing crimson
    through the miraculous labyrinth
    of my body
    oozing through every artery, vein and vessel
    Carrying oxygen, life, DNA, family,
    nourishment, energy, warmth, healing,
    and identity to every cell
    Giving form to my soul
    spark to my neurons
    flight to my thoughts
    Blood lines
    blood ties
    blood brothers
    blood thicker than water
    blood and guts
    blood of Christ
    blood that sustains us from one cell to a billion
    Carrying disease, poison,
    bacterial and viral invaders
    smoothly and quietly
    to ambush life's processes
    at any and every stage
    Serving two masters,
    knowing and unknowing,
    willing and unwilling,
    helping to kill me
    as it surges to keep me alive
    Blood and anti-blood
    Come again
    -Come again?
    Yes, come again
    -You what?
    I said come again
    You heard, come again
    That's right, come again,
    it's back, your cancer

The poem "Cancer" was featured previously in Ultrasounds.

Charles was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in September 2010 during a routine check for something else. After surgery and chemotherapy, Charles returned to work. Recently his cancer has returned, and he has resumed chemo. "Cancer no longer defines my life," he says. "Instead I have found new purpose and inspiration to write and create art, which help me in my fight. The fight of my life."