Born in Perugia, Italy, a graduate of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Milan, Italy) and of Mills College (Oakland, CA), Simona Carini writes nonfiction and poetry and has been published in various venues, in print and online. She lives in Northern California with her husband and works as an academic researcher in Medical Information Science. Her website is https://simonacarini.com
Bare rock overhead presses on both sides.
For 20 minutes, deep inside
this Norwegian mountain,
we travel, hold on to the sense
of forward motion.
“This is happening to us, not only to me,”
you’d said. I inhaled deeply,
from a place where my fears lodged,
of seeing you in pain—ceasing
to breathe, to relish life with me.
Only the tunnel and no laughing.
We accept smiles when thanking
white coats for bad news.
Meta, chemo, radio:
full terms truncated, tamed.
At the beginning, familiar words sounded stilted,
“How did you sleep?” an evasion,
“Would you like some fish for dinner?” insensitive.
But we still wanted to talk, go for a walk,
not into exile from each other.
Five minutes in, the ceiling rises,
the walls recede, as if the tunnel is breathing in,
and the air turns blue, soft and brilliant:
a deep pool in sunlight. Deeper
into the mountain, dark again.
When you have cancer, your life
is called survival time. Time scale changes
from years to months. Birthdays,
anniversaries erased from the calendar.
Instead, blood tests, scans, visits, drug refills.
The tunnel expands into a blue hall again,
yellow light peeks from the floor, hinting at sunrise.
Azure washes my face, like diving
into the Caribbean Sea looking for my favorite
damselfish: blue with stars on its body.
We’ve learned to discuss your bike rides,
my writing, the ocean, details that define us—
not birthdays or anniversaries, but the days at home
dancing around the stove, car trips with the cats, nights
in our bed, staring in silence at the new moon.
The shrill scream of common swifts at sunset
promised spring: longer days, warmer weather—
summer soon. From the balcony you watched them
dive, whirl, soar, circle—dark slender body,
forked tail, long swept-back wings like crescents,
their flight fast, effortless, their loops, spells.
They would be loud again as summer waned,
a call to prepare to migrate south of the equator.
You yearned to join the swoop, fly to tropical peace, away
from the frigid draft between your parents, your mother’s
anger storms, your father’s bitter counters. You wanted
to grow wings, rise high, sweep down. One day you left—
by rail. Blizzards never ended at home: you learned
it was not your burden to turn its winter into spring.