On television, the tumor arrives; the patient grabs
her head and yelps.
Sometimes, vomit. Sometimes,
the doctor-protagonist is the patient. Hours matter.
Seconds matter. Never a slow plod—
body losing tone or hair
perpetually coiled around the drain.
My tumor is grade III. In third grade, I was kicked
until I saw stars. They smeared me
across the field.
I was their football and felt nothing.
I went home and saw stars.
dazzle the cathodes—the doctor knitting a skull-
cap says, There are more deserving patients; another surgeon burns
secretly for her, the dying
doctor. The drama I must play
over and over—
a woman performing
terse strength and a man gushing,
emotional. When my eyes doubled John in our living
room, I closed them and reclined
into a familiar dream sequence:
the doctor and surgeon marry.
John touched me,
asked if I were ready
for tomorrow’s radiation. I refocused.
We chose removal, I reminded him.
Days earlier, on television, the doctor
swallowed the chemicals meant to dissolve
every bit of herself.
Their dream-wedding appeared
and disappeared in the waiting room mist
a mind narrating a time in which it is not.
Some days, pressure. Others, seizure.
As a child, I did not see the beatings
I received as a probability. I saw my body turn
in another’s hands and concluded it was disgust.
Inside the doctor’s office,
a giant reversible whiteboard.
I imagined my oncologist,
as if on television, keeping tallies of the patients
she saves and the patients she doesn’t.
I squinted at the television’s mirror, and it returned
my gaze. John repositioned
to the darkening
corners of my eyes.
I tilted my head back. Inside me, stars
expanded through my eyes.
Late at night, taking nips of bourbon, my oncologist
stared at the two columns—alive, dead—
and felt a vague and familiar sadness.
I imagined when we discussed treatment
options her brain
sopped across the whiteboard
trying to find the column where my mark would reside.