LIVING A MALIGNANT LIFE WITH MACBETH
Just like David Copperfield, I am born.
At five I don’t remember much. A surprise party, a birthday cake.
(Out, Out, Brief Candle)
My grandfather died this year. Cancer. He smoked pipes and cigarettes.
We moved then from Tennessee to Mississippi, with my grandmother
and uncle with muscular dystrophy.
At ten I start my period. Confused, hormonal, filled-out, taller. Tallest
person in class. My best friend, the shortest. Her father died last year. Cancer.
Lung travelled to the brain. He was a grumpy man. Chain smoker.
Hated people. Liked me, for a while. Another piece of my childhood
laid to rest in a wooden box.
Twelve, young, and impressionable I discover Camus and existentialism.
Life is still a bit meaningless. (Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage)
University at eighteen, my grandmother is diagnosed with cancer. I do not
remember which kind. I always thought bitterness and rage
were her true cancers. Five of seven deadly sins ate her inside out. Not gluttony
because fat people don’t deserve to be happy, or sloth, cause you can’t stay thin sitting
on your ass all day. (And then is heard no more)
I begin to understand racism,
the cancer eating the South. (It is a tale told by an idiot)
Twenty-one, my grandmother dies. My great-grandmother a week later. She outlived
all her children, hated her daughter (my grandmother), adored me. My grandmother
hated both of us.
I get married at twenty-five, move to Ireland. My uncle is diagnosed with cancer (not the one with muscular dystrophy – he died when I was fifteen). He was an officer on the first nuclear submarines. They said they were safe.
Thirty-three, my father is diagnosed with cancer. Prostate. Spread to his bones.
Thirty-five, my labrador, my girl, best friend, Breezy, bone cancer.
My father dies months later. I fly home, want my daddy. The one person on the planet that thought I was perfect is gone. My dog is gone. The world is a very scary place. (Full of Sound and Fury)
Forty, my slathered-in-sunscreen, wheatgrass-eating eighteen-year-old niece is diagnosed
with obscure cancer. She fights but she will lose. (Because, no battle is ever won, he said. They are not even fought and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools. Faulkner)
With so many to choose from, I wonder which will get me? The odds are not in my favour. (Signifying nothing)
A small girl took an egg
from its nest
in the refrigerator.
The last one.
Its potential siblings
used to make chocolate pie
piled high with meringue.
She took out the heat lamp,
placed it in an old shoebox
filled with hay from the barn
Turning it twice a day.
The surgeon removed the last egg
from her barren core,
giving no guarantees
that the thousands of dollars spent
would come to anything more
than an extravagantly
As he did his best to give her
no reassurances, she thought
she could smell sulphur
seeping from her womb.
HOW IS IT YOU NEVER EXISTED?
no first breath
no firsts whatsoever
not even a glint
yet I feel the lack of your
presence in everything
when I put ornaments on a tree
(one for me and …)
over the fireplace
sometimes I think it
strange that for tens
of thousands of years
women had children
that led to me
and now I sit
alone in a desert
to take hold
in shifting sand