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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

A cancerous life; Crying

By: David Alexander McFarland

A cancerous life

It’s most like walking in summer

sunshine on alga-slippery rocks

knee-high in a fast stream,

negotiating turns, getting past

overhanging, fallen branches,

swift currents that threaten to

put me down into the cold,

subtracting all my heat,

any thoughts or plans,

with all the sudden explosion of

winter wet that wants my complete

surrender to the flow that will

separate all my parts,

push every atom

finally to the sea.


She has seen me cry

too many times,

oh, yes, from the pain,

the constancy, a mean

persistence spreading

upwards from the root

of me until there is no end

to it, added instantly

to all those times before

because the body remembers

and keeps locked away

for later, recalling every pain—

memories constantly renewed.

And I have cried for myself

when I see an end, so I cry

for her, then for family and

friends who pray for me and call,

visit, send cards, who give

hope on the better days.

I cringe before the dark,

remembering the subtractions

throughout my life, parents

and grandparents, a sister,

too many friends, school pals;

afraid of that pain, I cry

even though I know

morphine or another drug

will make you comfortable.

So I might go not knowing

the moment of

my great translation.

I wonder what

I should truly desire.


David Alexander McFarland lives in northwestern Illinois where the Mississippi River runs east to west. Some of his fiction has appeared internationally, and his poetry is in Coe Review, Deep South Magazine, and Santa Anna River, with two poems scheduled to appear shortly.

"In my thirties, I took up whitewater paddling. So most of the imagery comes from those river trips. Thinking about my pre-cancer life compared to my now normal made me think of that dissipated energy of my youth, my friends and our trips then, the continuing difficulties of adjusting to this new world with its uncertainties, its pains and pills, put me in a water frame of mind. Having an aggressive cancer sometimes makes us sufferers (never victims) think of how it is to walk far these days, how uncertain one’s footing always is on wet or snowy paths. The connection solidified and strengthened in one instant to almost the version you have."


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