A poem about cancer, or anything really

4am and I’m filled with it
the taste in my mouth
like I’m stuffed with coins
each finger filled with it
4am and it’s here in the room
with me I’ve been swallowed
by cancer I’m a nodule
floating in a sea of cancer
I breathe it in I float in it
I’m drowning

6am and it’s getting light
time to pack it away
time to squash it down
into my lungs my bones
time to swallow it down

it’s in me don’t let me scream

I started blogging at fantasticmetastaticme.wordpress.com. I write poems at fmmewritespoems.wordpress.com. You can follow either, or both – or neither, obviously! – depending on your interest.


Limbo dancing – poem for dVerse

Yes, I’m a limbo dancer –

I’ve got the knack of it.

Watch me, as I dance

the dance of boiling kettle,

hanging out clothes,

turning the key –

and all the while knowing

that the cat that sits

in the box of my chest –

box of rib, and flesh,

and lung, lung most of all –

might be sleeping,

or prowling, or clawing

at the walls that

hold it in.

Yes, I’m a limbo dancer,

always dancing,

always in limbo.

M is guest hosting at dVerse poetics tonight, and our theme is “limbo”.

Solstice pilgrim

This, then, is her solstice pilgrimage,
this six monthly walk, down this too long corridor,
ticking off letters, – M is for Women’s Health,
P is for Medical Photography
Q is for X-ray and Imaging.

She’s here in the long days of summer,
when the windows are open in this small room,
letting in voices and slow moving air,

and again in the short dark winter days
when there’s not enough light to spare,
not enough warmth to go around –

stripped of power, clothing, efficacy –
she has a name-tag in her bag, out there
she’s someone, here she repeats her name,
address, date of birth at each desk –

Open Sesame

– and she’s touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands,
that press and smooth her skin,
searching for the death that bubbles under it.


And there you go – Day 26 of Jilly’s 28 days of unreason challenge. I’m going to make a confession now: I haven’t read any Jim Harrison apart from the quotations put up here. I will, but I wanted to do this challenge without any preconceptions about his work, and just take each quotation on its own terms. It’s been a great series of prompts. I can’t believe we only have two to go. 

And here’s the quotation:

“There is a human wildness held beneath the skin that finds all barriers brutishly unbearable”   from Songs of Unreason


I’m also linking it up to tonight’s dVerse prompt – opposites attract, posted by Lillian. She asks us to write a poem including some opposites as contrasts. I’ve used the two solstices here.

All the colours

  Death comes in a range of colours
There were blue curtains round the bed
  Black crow pecking
not quite sky blue, not quite the sea
  Coffee ground vomit brown
and the nurses all wore blue
  Rolling yellow jaundiced eye
as if they were all virgins
  Bright blood pumping from an artery
silver bells on the bedside table
  The green sheen of decay
cockle shells on those blue curtains
  Livid purple of obstruction
and me, contrary as always
  Pink puffer, blue bloater
I have lived blue, chasing the distance
scanning horizons, watching water,
  Drowning waters, green, grey, blue
lingering at departure boards

blue comes naturally to me


This is for Day 6 of Jilly’s Unreason poetry prompt month. Today’s Jim Harrison quotation is: 

“Her nights are full of the red teeth of death”

from Life / Dead Man’s Float

So far 11 poets have taken part. There’s some really good stuff going on. It’s not too late to join in for one or some, or even all of the prompts. 

I don’t think I’m usually a dark and brooding poet. There’s something going on here.

The cost of flight

“The cost of flight is landing”

~ Jim Harrison

This is not reality. We are gods up here,
looking down on that small world.
Time is all wrong. I set my phone
to some future space, but it’s not real, yet –
if we could stay here, in some
holding pattern, we wouldn’t age,
we wouldn’t face the messiness
of bodies blurring. We’d just be here,

I have a library on my device.
You have one book, carefully chosen.
Beef or chicken? A bread roll.
We crossed an ocean and a mountain range,
and city lights, and watched a film
about a man who saves the world. Again.

I spent a week in hospital that time,
ticking the menu, reading desperately,
my choices narrowed down –
watching men diving, learning their technique,
seeing them plunge, twist, somersault,
slice through the water. It’s not just flight,
it’s landing, too.



For Jilly – Day 2 of her month of Unreason.  


When I talk about crabs
I’m not talking about crabs.

When I talk about that sideways
that tip toe movement scratching
across the floor
in the middle of the night

I’m not talking about crabs.

When I talk about that
hard carapace, abandoned,
the soft form seeking
shade and shelter,
predator made prey,

I’m not talking about crabs.

When I talk about those claws
gripping, tearing,
and the scars they left,
my body changed,
predator made prey,

I’m not talking about crabs.

You know that, right?


Submitted to the toads – Tuesday Platform.

Change haibun for dVerse.

In that moment, as he lowered his voice and leaned towards me, as he gave me his bruising words, in that moment, I changed from being myself to being someone else. My body became a public thing, my health became someone else’s responsibility. My breast became the place where my enemy lurked, stealing from me – my future, my happiness, my content, my ease. I changed from being visible to being invisible, hidden behind a mask of diagnosis, investigation, medication, prognosis. Words I scattered freely became darts that caused me pain. My children became sources of fear and anxiety. All the other changes led on from that moment. The scars, the skin that aged overnight, the hair thing – I’m a blonde now, not a brunette. What stays the same? Love, I think, the love that holds us in place, that feeds our selves, that keeps us taking one step after another, that reaches out and intertwines with the fine threads of family and friends and home. Love that reminds us that there is always morning, there will be a morning, the sun will rise.

Even in the dark
There is the promise of light
Birdsong calls us home.