Because of the mask that molded to my face during the fitting, hardening
as the warm water dried, the mask that fastened
my head to the cot, and because of the cot that carried me into the machine,
the BEAM that unloaded a single dose of radiation every morning,
Monday through Friday, and because the techs left me in there alone
to take my dose, closing the steel door
behind them, while the robot arm rotated around my head, firing
invisible shots of radiation, I wrote no poems. I had no thoughts.
The radiologist said I would be dead within two years. Ravens
decorated the ceiling panels. I read “The Masque of Red Death”
on rides to the Department of Radiology, pulling down
my stocking cap over my ears. I shaved my head, grew out my beard.
For the first time in my life, I insisted on carving
jack-o’-lanterns, clawing out
the cold slime of their brains with my fingernails.