Today’s poem comes from Charles Phelps-Penry in Shanghai. It wins the prize for the most exotic locale (at least from my Canadian viewpoint – maybe Toronto, Canada is an exotic locale when you live in Shanghai).
I like the terse, tense language of this poem. To me, it effectively captures the feeling associated with a diagnosis. You can read more of Charles’ work at his blog Me and It.
Here is the bio Charles shared with me:
I was diagnosed with Oesophageal (Gullet) Cancer in September 2010 during a routine check for something else. The shock was huge and I was very scared at the start. I quickly went through tests and staging (Stage 3 with lymph nodes involved) and then on into 11 months of treatment which, after major surgery and chemotherapy, has been successful. I am back at work, active and feeling good. The cost was almost a year of my life, being torn from all I knew at very short notice as we live inShanghai, and returning to theUKfor treatment, leaving everything behind. I’ve learned much about myself, including facing my own mortality, and I’ve seen my family, especially my wife go through hell for me. But in the end I still have my life, and I am so very grateful for that. It’s not what it was but no bad thing that. Cancer no longer defines my life, though it did for a time. And I have to watch out for the beast coming back for another go, but I’m ready for a fight. The fight of my life.
When Charles shared this poem with me, I had to ask him to define “spiv” for me (it’s just not part of my Canadian lexicon). Here is the definition he provided:
A “spiv” is a term used during and after WW2 for people who used to trade goods on the black market, they were flash but seedy, could get hold of stuff that wasn’t easily available, usually illegally, and it is not a positive word.
by Charles Phelps-Penry
no knock on the door
no polite cough or tug at the elbow
Just creeps in
unseen, insinuates itself
Bides its time
a chancer, a spiv looking for a break
When it finds a good grip
it clings on for dear life
my dear life