“Cancer,” “Where It Starts” and “Anatomy of Disaster”

In Issue 54 by Heather Cameron

“Cancer,” “Where It Starts” and “Anatomy of Disaster”


The life lived in the body

Was the blood, warm in the veins.

White halos of icy breath,

Frost caught in the sportsground lights.

How you ran and played hard for the team.

It was monsters under the bed,

Shadows on the night windows.

White cold stars in a night sky, shining for us

As we crossed the oval on the way home.

Where we swore our promises of surrender.

It was a growing murmur, the story of

Vows forgotten and loves ending.

White knuckled fear and shotgun heart,

Sitting in the driveway, clutching the phone.

Hearing the word uttered, then uttered again.

Where it starts

The New Holland honeyeaters build a nest

In a fir tree, under the eye of

The calico cat. Sleek and replete,

She curls into sleep.

The sun spears the distant edges,

Smokey haze, and the birds sing.

It’s a nest building song,

And the cat’s tail twitches in time.

The phone rings.

Words crackling with a wilding wind.

He’s ringing from the beach,

He’s seen the doc; the results are in.

I’m afraid it’s not looking good.

There is a shadow in the lung.

A shadow in the lung.

A shadow. In the lung.

Sun dips below the ridge,

Birds fall silent among the

Silent, unmoving fir trees.

Evening cold moves swiftly.

There is the crunching sound of

Scree, where I walk. The cat

Retires inside, curls up,

Dreams of hunting.

The world recedes into shadow.

Shadows commandeer the path.

Lace the trees into forest,

Losing each other to the dark.

Anatomy of disaster

After her son’s death, she turned to Moore’s advice;

(Tend body, tend home, tend mind, tend connections, tend spirit).

And now she has learnt to not drop at the sight of visitors on the path,

When those who care for her, come to offer comfort and cheer.

She has found the peace the moon lays as a trail on the black sea,

And the sand shifting with the tidal flooding at the river mouth.

The rain drenching the ground turns the garden wild, the bush

Sends down mists filled with scents that pinch at her nostrils.

And in the evening light, just as the sunset throws pink across the sky,

She coughs the blood into her handkerchief, feels the pain in her chest;

Familiar yet alien. Like the sea continuing the same old story,

But each day bringing news of the uncontrollable world.

About the Author

Heather Cameron

Heather Cameron is a poet with a particular interest in autopathography and elegy. Her work as a healthcare professional as well as her experiences with cancer has led her to write poetry exploring a wide range of themes centred around loss and grief. She has recently completed a collection of poetry as part of her creative arts PhD at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia.
Heather has lived on the coast in Victoria, Australia, for nearly the same number of decades that she lived in her birth country of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Her career has spanned 35 years in the healthcare and education sectors in both countries. She currently lives with her two adult sons and two cats, who despite not earning an income, are in charge of the household.

Read more work by Heather Cameron .

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