Visiting you, weeks into your illness,
I almost passed your bed
so unlike yourself you had become.
You saw me, but propriety
decreed that you ignore
my appalled gaze.
I saw the old smile creak.
I said
that I was daydreaming in the Cancer Ward.

Chemo-ed and probed enough
you had them move you back
to lie amongst different strangers.
All believed, or wanted to,
that they were gaining
on their corruptions
but they cried at night;
a dread sound of stripped hope,
you called it, precisely.
This functional care is adequate, you said,
it makes the staff feel better.

I avoided you one day, because you talk so much-
or maybe I can't listen.
And I was in a hurry
You know I cannot remember
what I had to do that sunny day.
Or was it cloudy? I do not remember.

The tumour grows in your throat,
your voice a cracked whisper
in sullied air.
I fidget in the too-brown room
amidst bright, bright blooms
dying slow in ugly vases.

by James Mills

Comments (3)

Excellently judged, James, and honest.
Very well done, James. So easy to devolve into cheap sentimentality in poem on this subject. You keep it straightforward and honest. Nice closing metaphor.
Very sad poem. I've had my share of dealing with people in hospitals and I's very hard to keep a cheery disposition while wanting to run out. Good poem. Sincerely, mary