The Poet Community

Breast Cancer Is Our Boardwalk | A Poem by William Zink

Breast cancer is our boardwalk.
Why not a cold morgue or a field fallow with
bitter mustard? Why not an abandoned mansion
turned into a crack house, or some listing ship
taking on water, about to sink?
Because this breast cancer, of all things,
has lit the wheezing vapors of our marriage.
Cancer, with its cumbersome insistence,
woke us up, all right!
Woke us up to Death sitting astutely
snickering over in the chair,
in the back seat of the car,
his head sharing the pillow.
Death pokes that sickle in pertinent places!
The head.
The heart.
The sexual organs.
He doesn’t always, as we have seen—
oh, we have seen—
kill the body whole,
but often leaves the victim half-dead,
or half-alive, depending on your philosophy,
thrashing in bed.
Dancers are turned into crawling worms.
Gazelles rendered as three-legged hyenas.
Swans into vicious, carnivorous magpies.
And we are not immune!
Do they think we have been insulated because
we’ve worn the mask of the brave, the cape
draped over our shoulders without consent or
even query by the self-appointed champions
of the fight?
Breast cancer is demise and partial demise.
It is rust and woody decay. Yet, before,
where were we?
Alive? More or less.
Engaged? Between the pyramids of work and house.
Betrothed souls? Betrothed to the commitment,
if not the spirit. Breast cancer is our boardwalk,
I say, and will keep on saying as we
take our fourth walk together today along
frontier stallions of russet and reds,
as we did years ago beneath the artificial light
of our kaleidoscope world.