(someone with a brain tumor doesn’t look like that)



sounds improbable

perhaps made up

even the radiologist

laughed (before):

“everybody thinks

they see a



on their MRI”

maybe just

for sympathy

or attention, what better

way to make

people feel sorry

for you? really,

who talks about

it? If it was true,

you’d just be silent,

depressed, dying,

figuring out why you,

why YOU? so we’ll

silently nod our heads

in doubtful sympathy,

noting your normal

face, and we’ll keep

our doubts quiet







The Girl in the Purple Dress (for June)


Her name was June, but she left in May,

before the sunflowers could bloom and ask

for more days.  In the stone church, whispers

spoke of the claim: cancer, a brain tumor.

Stolen summer laid her cold, draped in flowers

taken in their bloom. They would die soon. 

I kept my head bowed, listened for June,

waited for the preaching, sobbing, and hymns to end.

In the front of the church, in a purple dress

with a black bow in her hair, June’s daughter sat;

I knew her well. She looked straight ahead and made

no sound, and that is why I kept my head down.

And when the cars were gone, and I was alone

I wept, and I wept to the church and through June.

The last months of her life, when the brain tumor

grasped and haunted her head, June had changed.

And her daughter, so many days, so many different

colored bows, would tell stories of the crazy things

her mom would do and stay. And it wasn’t June.

It wasn’t your Mom. I cry because we have lost

part of summer, but I weep for her girl in the purple dress,

and the June she remembered as she sat on those steps.

Brain MRI, November 2012

Lie down on the MRI table; they’ll lay a sheet over you

like you’ve already died. And when you begin to shake,

the sheet moves with you in a gentle dance of fear, as they block

your head in, snap the cage around your face. Don’t move,

they say, and you will your body to stop its shake. Your head

is still because they’ve trapped it. The table slides deeper

into the glowing tube, swallowing you up like medical prey, and all

you do is close your eyes, hold your breath, and listen

to the sounds of a machine predicting your future.

Because you are trapped, and scared, cold and alone,

you let your mind go, and it travels back to summer days on the farm,

riding horses, raising lambs, stacking hay bales in the sun,

but it follows with a breath grabbing squeeze, remembering days

of being forgotten, left alone, rejected. You are still shaking.

As the machine scans your brain for tumor growth, your head

scans your mind, for joy and love, for when you listened and grew,

created. But it always follows with the haunt of a face, someone

you hurt, or let go. And you are sorry.

The machine stops its banging for a moment. The mind rests.

And then it begins again. It says sunsets are numbered. Are you living

every one? All of the stories you were meant to engage in are not told.

You have a full heart and a broken brain, and you still have not

written down all of the words. You shake, lift off the table, hover in the air.

You’re looking down on the machine holding your body below. Music.

Floating. Voices. Go where you are needed. Love with all you are.

Be light. Believe. The machine goes still, and they pull you out.

The test is over. You already know the results.