Tuesday, December 9, 2008

At the Cancer Clinic

by Ted Kooser

She is being helped toward the open door
that leads to the examining rooms
by two young women I take to be her sisters.
Each bends to the weight of an arm
and steps with the straight, tough bearing
of courage. At what must seem to be
a great distance, a nurse holds the door,
smiling and calling encouragement.
How patient she is in the crisp white sails
of her clothes. The sick woman
peers from under her funny knit cap
to watch each foot swing scuffing forward
and take its turn under her weight.
There is no restlessness or impatience
or anger anywhere in sight. Grace
fills the clean mold of this moment
and all the shuffling magazines grow still.

from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004

Ted is another Poet Laureate and a fellow midwesterner. He writes a weekly newspaper column, American Life in Poetry.

This poem really rings true: my trips to the Cancer Center are always a mixture of anxiety and relief, self-pity and gratitude. Every glance and closed-lip smile is an invisible hug, a silent hand-squeeze. There is more courage in that waiting room than on any battlefield, and I'm humbled, and think that just maybe some of it will rub off on me.

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