Letter to the Front Line

Posted on October 24, 2013

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I read this tonight, flaws and all, at the Fighting Cancer with Poetry Event.  I was gonna lie, but i just wrote this today.  this topic deserved a poem, and this event was the impetus for it.  thanks for reading.

 

front-FORWEBThis is a letter to the front line.
A telegram to the trenches in this war we wage against cancer.
As I sit here safe at home, basking in the glorious bliss of ignorance,
I reflect on those drafted into this cold war.
In every epic battle that is waged in this world, its warriors have waited
for written words from the ones they are fighting for

Me?
I’m the onlooker
who learns laborious latin words for chemical warfare in my own leisure
docetaxel
cytotoxic anti-neoplastic
myelosuppression
immunosuppression
mucositis
nitrosoureas,
tetrazines,
aziridines,
cisplatins
mechlorethamine,
cyclophosphamide,
melphalan,
chlorambucil,
ifosfamide
busulfan
the tongue twisting
the brain busting
is nothing compared
to the way these words wind their way through the sinews of actual bodies

I’m the bystander
Marking off birthdays
while bobbing and weaving past colonoscopy jokes
giggling at incontinence and erectile dysfunction commercials
target marketing aimed at a me I have not yet grown to be
the explosive flack men get from their wives
when they aren’t taking care of their equipment

I’m the spectator
Playfully lighting a spliff while calling it “medicinal”
Taking no note, not even a knod to the fact
That for many it isn’t a euphemism
When you are fresh from another skirmish
Where doctors chart out your anatomy like a 4 star general
Mapping out the terrain for urban warfare style strikes
with Cancer cells that divide and multiply
finding quarter in the organs of a peaceful body
Cannabis is your bodies canteen
when the war is at its heights
And our society is obscene
to have ever thought denying this was right
Turning brave soldiers into guerilla warriors

I am the gawker
amazed at how you fight an internal civil war
as your body cannibalizes itself
How do you find the heart to keep fighting
when your lungs are fighting against you?

I am the witness
Peering through the fog of second hand smoke
My intellectual friends emit between diatribes

I am the rubber-necker
Leering at the assisted suicide
by a warrior willing to fall on their own sword
rather than have their gates overrun

I am the spectator
Who wants you to know that i see you
and the war for all of our lives that you are waging
beyond the flash of pink
that envelopes our pseudo war games
we call Sunday football
as I watch gridiron warriors
photo bombing cancer
I realize that is much more than I do most days

But then
I don’t realize how often
I’m entertaining these warriors
with my own song and dance
They don’t wear army green uniforms
But I admire the way they wear their fatigue
even when they can’t camouflage the pain
Once an a young man enlisted in this war
showed his colors in my classroom
A 8th grader in the back of my song writing class
Treating every limiric like the battle hymn of the republic
I spent the period reminding myself to not notice his bald head
though it was a beacon from the back of the room
a light only paled in comparison to his zeal for life
the heat from which was felt
every time he hit the
“ooooh, ooooh, oooh, me!”
hand wave to be first to answer to a question
his self deprecating jokes
served like an MP
waving us along and saying sternly
“Move along, there is nothing to see here”
He had no qualms calling himself cue-ball
And assured us that it’s convenient to not need his eyebrows waxed
he does not negotiate with terrorists
he does not accept a truce, or a ceasefire
just full remission
only an all out retreat by the enemy
when he answered the writing prompt “where do you see yourself in 10 years” he replied without a pause

May I be your USO, your little bit of Bob Hope
May we chronicle the tales
of you facing death calmly
Or fighting for life bravely
In epic poem and soaring songs
If nothing else, letter this to the front line, be a care package, a salute. We see you