June 24th is my 7th wedding anniversary to my wonderful life partner, Robert. This year we will be sharing this anniversary with a new adversary as my beloved is actively engaged in fighting stage III throat cancer. We’ve been through a lot in our short marriage including battling clinical depression and bipolar disorder as well as a round of prostate cancer. Just when you think you’ve beat something, you’re back at the beginning of a new fight. That’s life.
Below is a new poem that has endured one revision, so far. I originally titled my poem “Husband and Wife,” but I decided that wasn’t very inclusive of every partnership out there, and I think that “Til Death Do Us Part” more effectively communicates the ultimate goal of any relationship.
Likely, you will notice the alliteration and assonance qualities to this poem which carry the work forward at an even tempo. You may even want to read it aloud.
As for the subject matter, this has been our experience. It is dark and the smallest things are what you become thankful for when you are going through chemo (or radiation). The marks on the body from surgery scars to the residue of the medical tape are constant reminders of the cancer. It is inescapable, like death, our only reprieve from life.
Til Death Do Us Part
I watch him vomit thick
dark gelatinous blobs into
the toilet. The doctor said
chemo wouldn’t make him ill.
Lying stiffly across the bathroom
floor, he smells of three days
unwashed and moaning for life
to break through barriers of sick.
I bend over to flush his feeding
tube and he says thank you.
As if I were a stranger passing
by this bathroom finding a man
nearly naked in blue briefs,
with medical tape residue stuck
all over his pale, heaving chest.
He asks for more ice water and
a rag for the back of his neck.
I stop in the door way to look
once more at this frail man,
his wedding ring loose on his hand.