today can take your breath away
by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions
$15.00 Amazon (Amazon)
£10.75 Amazon UK (Amazon UK)
Marc Swan has poems forthcoming in Windsor Review, Gargoyle, Nerve Cowboy, Queen’s Quarterly, among others. He lives with his wife Dd in Portland Maine.
She says it’s a pain that won’t go away,
never much better.
At night she walks the floor
room to room
into the kitchen,
the bath, movement seems to help
then she tires, and it strikes up again
like a discordant band
leading a march to nowhere.
One doctor says a nerve issue,
one says vascular,
one says muscular,
another says PT, chiropractic,
the list builds
then her GP says oncology
like it’s a new word
or a word he has trouble saying.
She has X-rays for oncology
and they request more.
She has more, and a few days later
at her rural home
along the St. Lawrence River
on a Saturday
the mail arrives
with a letter
from the man who scheduled the X-rays
saying in her neck
there are tumors wrapped
around an artery, nerve, lymph node—
probably cancerous tumors
with many other words in medical speak
that need a doctor to translate.
It is Saturday and there is no doctor to call.
It is Saturday and she has the weekend
to think all those thoughts.
First, I think it’s age,
this sense of being invisible
on sidewalks, in parks, the beach,
at the Whole Foods check-out line
then I think it’s a seventh sense.
Maybe it’s how I dress.
After retirement, usually casual—
homemade shirt (my wife has a knack
for sewing projects), old jeans—
washed out, Keen’s mid-calf shoes,
socks, mostly colorful,
to fit my mood.
In lines, I feel I diminish
to a blur rather
than a human being.
Daily, as I walk local streets,
I invariably nod, offer a greeting
often unacknowledged, then I sink
into an abyss of regret
for aging, for not having the flair
I imagine I once had, but then
someone younger will say hello
or smile, or someone my age
will offer a kind retort
to a friendly comment,
and the sun
clouds less heavy,
wind stable, not rising.