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Crayon's for Cancer's Coloring Book

by David Looney

You need browns, for the chemo nurses gowns,
And dark red in floods, for those endless bloods,
Comforting and warm if you have enough,
More than alarming if not.
Silver and greens tint the wheelchair pains bring,
Oranges, blues fill the devils' bags and tubes,
That wind from the pole to your arm like snakes,
Vipers whose bites taste like steel.
You need grays, to fill in long empty days,
Cyan for pumps that chatter like chipmunks,
Murmuring stories you dream in your sleep,
So startling when they stop.
Brilliant white shine sheets too crisp and too tight,
Stretched on beds too hard to rest your tired head,
And black, of course, the darkest you can find,
For the unsure days to come
You need yellow, for pus, urine, and phlegm,
Vomit, flaking nails, and your jaundiced skin,
No color at all for your sallow cheeks,
Pale as the horse that Death rides.

David is a 60 year-old physician and researcher who developed acute myelogenous leukemia in January 2013 just as his wife, Karla, was failing in her long struggle with metastatic breast cancer. They were on the oncology ward together last spring, where the nursing staff would wheel them to see each other and pass notes and poems. David's stem cell transplant has so far been successful.