05 January 2009

Michael Dumanis

[from Michael Dumanis's My Soviet Union, University of Massachusetts, 2007]

Cancer Is a Disease of Animals

When she said she would rather cut
what was intimate out of her, out of her skin,
out of the frame she was in, cut it out,

her involvement with him, like a tumor,
when she said she would rather kill,
if not for shame, herself, than stay beside,

through the continuance on one damp sheet
of one more night, with him, that she'd rather die
than lay her shopworn body next to his again,

when she said, it's no use, we're like having a cancer
distend in and through me,
he wanted to say,
as he cut, for propriety's sake, himself off

from the saying of it, it's a beautiful thing,
and she, not having heard him, did not ask,
why must you mumble so, which thing, and he,

she not having asked him, could not reply, cancer,
I find cancer beautiful, were I to choose
a terminal illness to be, I would cancer,

not cystic fibrosis, not me, psoriatic arthritis,
would cancer and not beriberi what have you,
had I some say in it.
He would have liked

to mean by what he could not find the breath inside
the fog-and-wetness of his lungs enough to say,
the frenzy of it, cancer's sprawl and raw,

the spring of thing from nothing, the tense bloom
of the imperative of
give like moss on wall,
forsythia on snow, like wall on ivy.

He would have liked give up to lunge at her,
give in to push, onto a pillow, back her face,
to pull give give into his throat her breath,

to rent her body for an endlessness,
to cover her and swell and hold and say,
to whisper hi there under her left breast,

to fog-and-wetness her and say and hold,
to mean by what he could not find the breath inside,
to say and say until all matter ceased.

My Soviet Union: Poems (Juniper Prize for Poetry)

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