The Path

Ellen Goldsmith
From: Unbearable Uncertainty: the fear of breast cancer recurrence (Edited by Amy Bowes, Terry S. Gingras, Beth A. Kaplowitt, Anne Perkins) Pioneer Valley Breast Cancer Network, 2000

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The crows on the trees lining
the path to the lake are full of winter
I'm trying to think of spring
because then my treatments end
But I've forgotten tulips, can't
remember the smell of hyacinths
What's real is the drive to the doctor
the technician pricking my finger.

I prefer blood to be taken
from the soft spot inside my elbow
enjoy making a fist, watching the veins rise
Now those veins are saved
for the liquids sent to kill cancer cells
liquids dark as the crows that guard the path
They caw to each other:
Nothing sighted here. Clean territory.
Or, Hot spot. I need back-up.

Everyone encourages me to visualize
the enemy and vanquish it
But I can't see myself barefoot
in a bathing suit passing
the crows along the path
walking with confidence into the lake
until the water reaches the top of my mouth-
then pushing off and swimming-
straight to the other side.

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