haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2008, vol 4 no 1

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Ken Arnold

 

Radiation

Early morning, I catch the downtown C train to 14th and walk two blocks to the St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center. All cancers served. This morning listening to Bolton's "Songs Of Innocence" on my iPod. Some mornings shakuhachi; lately, though, the songs of Schubert and tomorrow, maybe, Mahler. Already the waiting room is full--ten of us, each waiting for radiation. Cancers in different parts of our bodies. Mostly, we look ok. You'd never know. Except for one woman who is wearing a head scarf to cover her baldness. We are waiting in our separate silences for the call: You can go in now.

Adjusting my hips
the nurse apologizes
for her cold hands

Barbara the receptionist greets us by name when we come in. After awhile she learns who we are and asks about children and spouses. She gives us our appointment times for the next day. We hear her on the phone talking to friends, making her own plans. She's a good Catholic who works at her parish after she leaves the hospital. Today is Tuesday in Holy Week, and she asks if I will be coming in Good Friday. "We allow people to take the day off if they want to." I'll be here. It's like going to church every day, this ritual.

My face in the glass
of the accelerator
she slides my body under