Early Treatment Could Save Your Life

 in Side­walks, Issue #18, Spring/Summer 2000

outhouseI found the arti­cle in the outhouse,
the sum­mer I was twelve.
The crust­ed build­ing far from the house,
where the grave­yard now lies.
Wood slab with a hole in the center,
creaky floor where a gar­den snake
sur­prised me at dusk.
Red­book Mag­a­zine, pages
glommed togeth­er like old pasta
from end­less leaky days.

“Ear­ly Warn­ing Signs of Cancer:
A lump in your breast.
See a doc­tor immediately.”
My breasts were new then,
white flour pan­cakes rising
to a bub­ble off my chest
and full of ten­der lumps.
So when Jim­my asked me
to go roller­skat­ing, I knew
I had bet­ter do it. I’d be dead
the sum­mer after for sure.

That was the same summer
the Sec­ond Com­ing almost
killed me. We all stood in a line
–mom, dad, broth­ers, sis­ters, me–
gap­ing at the August sky,
shafts of col­ored light
lurch­ing in the north­ern half.
Mom in ecsta­sy. The lights
were trees crash­ing in a wind
storm, and the world
was about to end.

I’ve built my own out­house now,
a shin­gled build­ing not too far
from the cab­in, a wood slab
with a hole in the cen­ter, the
New York­er to keep us company.
and when I lie in the meadow
and the north­ern lights spill down the sky,
I close my eyes and repeat to myself,
I do not have cancer
It is not the Sec­ond Coming.