Day fourteen in the radiation waiting room,
and the old man sitting next to me
says he gives thanks every day because
he can still roll over and climb out of bed.
We wear the same cotton gowns—repeating
pattern of gold stars on a field of blue—that gape
in back, leaving our goose bump flesh exposed.
Lately, I too, give thanks for the things I can do—
sit, stand, take my next breath. Thanks for my feet,
my fingers, the ears on my head. I give thanks
for the scrub jay’s audacious cries outside
my window at dawn. He is a hungry soul,
forever foraging to feed his mortal appetite.
Like him, I want more of everything: more light,
more life, another cup of Darjeeling tea and a silver
teaspoon to stir it with. I want to see my mother again,
before the winter settles in, and when she’s gone,
I want her porcelain Madonna. I want my doctor
to use the word “cure” just once. Every day, supine
on the table, I listen to the razoring whine
of the radiation beam. It hurts to lie there,
the table sharp as an ice floe beneath the bones
of my spine. Still, I give thanks for the hands
that position me, their measurements and marking
pens, the grid of green light that slides like silk
across my skin. I close my eyes and think
of the jay. We wear the same rainment: blood, bone,
muscle. Most days I still feel joy. I give thanks
for that bird, too—invisible feathers, invisible wings—
a quickening, felt deep within the body, vigorous and fleeting.
—From “Seaworthy,” @ 2018 River Rock Books
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