Monday, June 4, 2012

My Third Skin Cancer--in Poem Form!

Yesterday I wrote this post about my third skin cancer, complete with photo (non-gruesome since my skin cancer is quite small).  I wrote about the genesis of a poem coming to me in the parking lot of the dermatologist when I was done.  Here's the original that inspired my poem, at least in the rhythm of the first line.

My Last Duchess

By Robert Browning

That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
'Frà Pandolf' by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say 'Her mantle laps
Over my lady's wrist too much,' or, 'Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:' such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart – how shall I say – too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace - all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men - good! but thanked
Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech - (which I have not) - to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, 'Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark' - and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
- E'en that would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

I copied the poem into a Word document and then separated it chunk by chunk to make it less intimidating.  And then, line by line, I wrote my version.  I even tried to keep a rhyme scheme in the lines where a rhyme scheme exists.

I had fun writing it, but I'm not sure that I'll do much more than post it here.  But then again, who knows?

My Third Cancer

That’s my third cancer, lurking near my neck,

Looking as if it were harmless. I call
This spot a harmless one: I spent years
Out in the sun, and now I’m marked.
Feel free to observe closely. I said
“Harmless” by design, for even
Strangers picture scars and scalpels,
As they look (once I’ve pointed
Out my scars, this one here, and here, and now here)
And seemed they would ask me, if not rude,
How such a scar came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus.
Sir, ‘twas not
The way it once was, sunscreens applied
Before we left the house: perhaps
It was the childhood summers spent outside or poolside
Sunning smeared with baby oil and tracking
Time spent on each side for an even tan: such stuff
Was normal, we thought, and cause enough
For loving summers outside. We had
A view—how shall I say?—of beauty bronzed
And gold; we loved that glow,
The burnished skin, and for it, we’d do anything.
Sir, ‘twas all one! A teenage tan,
A noonday run across the decades’ span,
A careless afternoon at the beach that led to sunburn
Or a tanning bed, no lessons learned
From every exposure – all and each
We loved because we thought it made us look healthy
Or , at least. We approved, -- good! But approved
All efforts -- it seems strange now-- as if we’d escape
The ravages of the radiation of the sun’s rays
Like our ancestors did. Do you forget we thought
We had an ozone layer? Even had we known
The results -- (which we did not) -- the cancers
Dotting our bodies, the age spots
Down the road; possible damage
To our eyes -- yes if we’d known,
We’d have ignored the facts or assumed
That we would be the exception, not the rule
-- E’en then we’d have needed sunscreen; which I choose
Never to use. Oh, sir, I spray occasionally, no doubt,
During the rare beach outing, but who doesn’t
Sporadically? If out, do I go to the store?
I do not. Will ‘t please you rise? We’ll gather
Our picnic together. I repeat
We’ll have a shelter at the park along with trees
So that we can eat and enjoy the breeze
Although along with bugspray we’ll take this lotion,
With an SPF of 70, our modern magic potion,
Allowing us to go outside. OK, we’ll go
To the park together, sir. Notice, though,
My shirt of woven mesh, my predilection,
Which in any weather gives protection!


Hannah Stephenson said...

I love that you wrote a poem about this.

Kathleen said...

Likewise, re: Hannah. You've given it some fun, mixed in with the dread. I love the picnic. And the "E'en" internally rhyming with "sunscreen."

john m. said...

inspired... it made me laugh.