A Cartographer's Dream
If you take a very close look at us
guys involved with prostate cancer
you’ll see we're a crowd involved
in making maps, a map of where
we might need to go in the future
map of today—look, that tiny dot
is us, a location that looks a lot like
it’s stuck in the middle of nowhere
and what of those glorious maps
of the past, a cartographer’s dream
valleys and plains we have crossed
mountains climbed, swamps endured
rivers and lakes paddled, yesterdays
of treatments, surgeries and drugs
tangle of our private prostate paths
run your fingers along them and look
marvel at how far we have travelled.
I never shouted I’M IN!
I never signed up.
I got drafted.
Issued a card and a uniform.
Assigned a locker.
Weighed and measured.
Dealt a coach.
Taught contradictory rules.
Shoved into scrimmages.
Praised, encouraged, cursed.
Mocked when I spoke of getting out.
Told to practice every day.
Slapped on the back.
You’re IN they shouted.
Never mind how you got here.
You never signed it
but your contract is unbreakable.
Field is freshly marked and waiting.
Clock is ticking.
Act like a hero.
Make the world believe it
Remember when it was your new life?
Faint bell you thought you were hearing.
Then raised, then rung, to great gonging.
Your mortality clanging across blue sky.
Remember the drama of its initial tolling.
The shiver it sent down your existence.
new itineraries optimistically composed.
High mountains you were going to climb.
How nostalgia always polishes everything
we assemble at the beginning of a journey.
Bright coins of hope, sunny clouds of cure
cheerful doctor talking up a fine tomorrow.
Well, your new life has turned old hat now.
a destination there for you each morning.
Beyond bells and as persistent as sunrise
it’s a stray dog, tugging until you walk it.
As we sit by a window drinking our coffee
and munching on our multigrain muffins
Dan begins to spill his agonizing dilemmas
on the bright plastic table that separates us.
We’re talking about that sleepy passenger
and murderer-in-waiting, prostate cancer.
Dan’s upset about the latest medical fashions.
News that PSA testing is quite unnecessary.
What’s going on here? he grumbles at me.
One minute they tell you the PSA test will
save your life, next minute that it’s a waste
that will benefit only one man in a thousand.
It doesn’t end here. Some praise the biopsy
to reveal cancer while others claim it can miss
the tumour and slap you with cramps, bleeding
anxiety and a host of additional aggravations.
Throw in radiation and radical prostatectomy
tempting flags of cure that come with promises
of incontinence, bowel and erectile dysfunctions
morbidities nibbling at the quality of your life.
Dan’s lost. What’s an ordinary guy to think
when even the experts can’t agree what to do?
Have another muffin, Dan. And count me in.
I’m just as baffled, afraid and angry as you.
Look Both Ways
Sometimes, navigating through all the ways
they hurry in to fix us—the cuts, the burns
the radical prostectomy surgery and radiation
the needles, the pills, the pilots and the PSAs
I sometimes close my eyes and dream a time
when medicine has moved far from where it
is stuck now, when someone has what I have
but gets treated in a way I wouldn’t recognize
and I ask myself if that patient will ever pause
to look back (as I have paused to look ahead)
to maybe feel sad at the way we were treated
or amazed at how we sang in such a darkness.
Moved there a few short years ago.
A street on the outskirts of the city.
No attractions, no luring amenities.
Who would really want to live there?
No signs to locate it. Don’t be fooled.
It’s known as Prostate Cancer Avenue.
Want to look at some of the houses?
Number 2009 is where Diagnosis lives.
Address 2010 is a double occupancy.
Watchful Waiting resides on one side.
Three biopsies briefly rent the other.
No one really quite trusts anyone else.
Radical Prostatectomy bought 2011.
Radiation snapped up 2012 and 2013.
I know their houses like the back of
my hand, spent time in each of them.
Walk with me to the end of the street.
Lot number 2014 is ready for digging.
Doctors can’t decide what to do with it.
What next Therapy should they sell it to?
Beyond lies an open field that one day
I foolishly dream will make a quiet park.
In the distance you hear tires humming.
The healthy heading undetectably home.
Listen up, it’s only cancer.
Not something to get upset about.
Not a broom to sweep you off
your feet. It moves slowly.
You could say it almost drifts
like an iceberg. Mostly submerged.
Rides currents that you will never see.
Cheer up, it’s not going to swallow you
today. It’s a big project. Takes time.
Meanwhile splash in the shallows.
Stroll at sundown on golden sand.
Get yourself a beer from the fridge.
Some things are certain in this world.
That bottle. Ice-cold in your hand.
struck like some
what he says
each man who
fails a treatment