Cancer is a rare and still scandalous subject for poetry;
and it seems unimaginable to aestheticize the disease.
-Susan Sontag from Illness as Metaphor
Cancer poems, meet the whole world. Whole world, meet the cancer poems.
Low Ghost Press. Out July 23rd.
It’s a limited edition 100 copy run.
I’m eternally grateful to Kris Collins at Low Ghost Press for turning the hot mess manuscript I gave him into an actual book and to Nathan, for copy editing this thing like a champ.
And to all the presses that published these poems beforehand – 48th Street Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, Beechwood Review, The Blue Hour, Carcinogenic Poetry, Clockwise Cat, The Commonline Journal, Dead Snakes, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Drunk Monkeys, Exercise Bowler, Eye on Life Magazine, Hobo Camp Review, Homestead Review, Horror Sleaze and Trash, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Mad Swirl, Mas Tequila Review, Misfit Magazine, Pine Hills Review, Pyrokinection, Red Fez, Revolution John, Verse Virtual, Yellow Chair Review, and Your One Phone Call – thank you.
Thank you for giving me a space to scream and cry and laugh. I’m eternally grateful.
You all helped keep me alive through this.
And while I’m saying thanks, thanks to In Between Hangovers for taking The Bridge That Doesn’t Go To Manhattan and Cancer Math and also thanks to Drunk in Midnight Choir for taking these three poems. Also thanks to CommonLine Journal for Radiation Day 17 and Red Fez for My First Visit to the Apple Store: April 2016
BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR is, thus far, the most honest and personal writing I have ever undertaken. I’m glad it is going to exist in the world. It is literally the lemonade from the lemons.
If you’re in Pittsburgh on July 23rd we’re doing a reading at the East End Book Exchange. Come on out. I promise not to be depressing. I mean honestly how bad could it be. I’m gonna spend some time talking about my tits!!
Oh and I’ll have a bunch of broadsides from Chris at 48th Street Press to give away.
Give the title track a spin. (originally published in Red Fez)
Better Luck Next Year
I’m not even sure why I kept it so long
this pewter pink ribbon pin
that was given to me during radiation treatment,
that first day when the nurse walked up and said
I have something for your collection
nodding at all the pins on my bag
and placed in my hand a little pink ribbon
and I took it with quivering fingertips
there in my hospital gown
waiting to be burned
because I didn’t know what else to do.
I put it on my bag with the others
and there it stayed
through all of treatment
through the tears
and the panic
the sick dizzy feeling
in the middle of the night when I got up to pee
the one that told me
You’re going to die. Sooner. Painfully.
It stayed there through the injections
and the long hours spent in the waiting room.
It stayed there through telling my parents
and my friends and the depression
and the anger that crashed against me like a tidal wave.
It stayed there until
when I looked down at it
I don’t want a symbol
and I don’t want to be a warrior.
I thought of all the young women that came before me
the ones that died
and the ones that lived
and all the others out
there right now blossoming
this burden in their holy bodies.
I thought of all of things people told me
when I told them about this hurricane of a tumor in me
and it was yours that came back to me:
Better luck next year, I guess.
You said it not insincerely
but with the exacting honesty
of the unchangeable
unfairness of this life
and I took the ribbon pin off my bag
because I am not a warrior
or a survivor
but just a young women trying to live with a disease
and I hurled it over the
wrought iron of the cemetery fence
and I kept walking
not caring to see which grave it landed at
knowing that at least
it wasn’t mine.
And finally, today, June 10th, is Cancerversary Year 2.
This girl’s still alive.
Suck it, cancer.
Peace, love and starbursts,