I’m a freelance court reporter spending my days recording other people’s words—every isn’t it true, yes, no, pursuant to. And I’m a poet. I leave the room with what I saw: lint on the shoulders of a blue suit, the hole in a gray sock, black wings of birds flying past the ninth floor window. To read my work, please visit my website www.victoriamelekian.com.
“The dye moves to the first node the cancer goes to if it has spread. That’s the sentinel node, the one we’ll remove during surgery and send to pathology, the one we hope comes back clear.” -Dr. T
Six a.m., low tide, sun rising
into a glorious sky. I watch
two sandpipers outrun a wave.
I’ve come to hear the ocean,
not listen to a homeless beach bum
talk about rocks and shells
and glittering sand in his pockets.
“Do you want to see?” he asks.
I tell him, “No, thank you.”
He shuffles off and I head home.
Later that morning, lying on a table
in nuclear medicine, I watch a tech
shoot radioactive dye into my breast.
“Here’s where I injected you,”
she says. “And here,” she points
to the monitor “is your sentinel node.”
The white dot on the screen looks like
the first star in a blue-black dusk.
I stare at it, that star, afraid of what’s inside.
I wonder if I should have said yes
to the man on the beach. I wonder if
I should have said yes to everything.
— first published in Atlanta Review, Fall/Winter 2014
The doctor talks about pathology,
stages and grades. I’m thinking about
my grandson, too young to remember me.
I wonder if I’ll be here when the new baby comes.
I ask for a copy of the biopsy report.
At home I sit in bed with my computer
looking up words. I’m afraid the cancer
has spread, that the surgeon will slice open
my breast and find a gray snarled mess
inside my chest. I’m afraid
it’s invaded every node, is racing up
and down my spine, devouring organs,
that my sons will write “Mom” on tribute
signs they’ll carry in fundraiser walks.
The doctor told me the tumor
could have been growing five to eight years.
I picture it climbing aboard and nestling in,
living close to my heart––there when I met
my husband, when I first held my grandchild--
a silent witness to my life.
Going to the Chapel
I don’t know who started it
or why, but we ended up singing
“Going to the Chapel.” I guess
because Lani is getting married
and Cassie is too sick to leave the house,
even the couch, so we brought the party
to her and did our best pretending
she’d still be here for the wedding.
We talked about the usual—work,
families, Megan’s divorce, Nadine’s new man,
Sherry’s big news: twins. Cassie fell asleep
and one by one we kissed her bald head
and tip-toed out just like we would
two weeks later at her funeral.
On the way home from chemo
we’re stopped at the long red light
at Roscoe and Reseda, both of us
looking at the roadside shrine.
It was bigger a year ago.
Now, the cross is gone,
the fresh flowers have been replaced
with plastic ones, and the pinwheel is stuck.
As we drive past, Cheryl says,
“Don’t forget me.”
I pat her hand and try not to cry.
Five months later her ashes sit
in a vase on her husband’s dresser,
it too a small shrine. To its left
is a photo taken just a year ago—
Cheryl’s coasting downhill on her daughter’s bike,
pink and silver streamers sailing behind.
She’s laughing and waving.
Already saying good-bye.
-first published in A Year in Ink, Volume 7
Status: Post Left Breast Carcinoma
Oh, magnificent void.
It’s me, member 37295.
I’m adrift in the vast
of managed healthcare.
Somewhere inside the abyss
is the radiologist’s report.
I need those results.
Please, take my call.
Keep me on hold.
Let me pretend that you care.
©2016 Victoria Melekian