Cancer, my friend


year: 2008

It is a tribal dart of a word
that stunts chitchat,
clears small talk,
induces avalanches.

“Wasn’t the deadline last week?”
“I’ve got cancer, my friend.”

It is an asphyxiating word
That turns people into fish:
“Is there anything I can do?”
gulps its echo down the phone
as they thrash for chunks
of random verbal air
to mute the silence.

It is a secret word to be shared
Sparingly, in an almost whisper.
The recipient will be thankful,
Touched beyond compare.

“I would love to, but I can’t.
I’ve got cancer, my friend.”

It is a microscopic fortress
Built from razor-like bricks,
Each brick a letter,
Each letter a cell
Broad enough
to hide behind
yet deft enough to slip
between the ribs of any topic.

It is a feigning, feinting word:
a pop-up shop with mirrors
To make one thing of another
Or a monster in the cupboard
Type of fairytale tangent
From my hyper-active inner child’s
Coolest, wildest dreams.

It is tricksy, proto-legalese,
the small print clause
To end all bets.

When God took out his cane
This was Adam’s first excuse.

It is something else though:
A foundry of a word
In which in amongst the chaos
Many certainties are cast
In a die of lucid vision.
It is a seance to the present:
An iron-wired connection
To an honest, instant clarity,
A hairline, trigger state
Of now
To oust petty questioning,
Myopia, priorities.

Every day I write
To feel it sitting in my hand:
It is a slender-billed curlew
the rarest bird of opportunity,
twitching elemental truth.

“Sorry to cancel, but
I’ve got cancer, my friend.”

A shirker’s cloak,
a slacker’s cattle-prod,
the joker word in any pack of tongues.

My friend.