—a study to perceive whether needles palliate pain from radiation

Every fourth garnish, a research questionnaire precedes acupuncture.

Q. How often do you evacuate?
A. Too often.

Q. Do you have trouble sleeping?
A. No, trouble waking.

Q. Can you identify oranges by scent?
A. Everything smells like metal or sweat.

Q. Can you drink an 8 ounce glass of water in 15 minutes?
A. Only if I pour it in my PEG tube.

Q. How would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 5?
A. Consistent.

Q. Do you feel ill?

Lost 20 pounds.
Mouth and throat are The Sahara Desert—all but one saliva gland burnt out. 
Tongue and inner cheeks cracked, cut, lesions, sores.
A sip is more fiendish than a chin-up with dumbbells tacked to belt.
Feeding myself I visit Never Never Land and wake with face in puddle on tray.
Spit out foul fluid, vomit into sink.
Shower or no shower, smell like garbage left too long in the sun and wonder how anyone 
     can sit near me even though everyone tells me my aroma is a-ok.
Pillowcase is decorated with sundry tints drooled, tongued, belched into perverse patterns.
Magic Mouthwash numbs my mouth, fifteen minutes of bliss.

I am in a microcellular war.
Body is littered with collateral damage, friendly fire my battle buddy.
Outlook is fierce, weak, determined, trampled.
Hurts to laugh but—scorched neck like bad makeup in horror films—does my gait describe 
     drunkenness or doddering?—hiccups make dogs bark.
Feel sad for your frowns, but I fight, wrack and wreck my guts. 
Will kill squeamish cell carcinoma, that alien training traitors within my flesh.
I am a survivor. My fellow warriors fall while I trudge on. We chortled at our foes, 
     wrapped each others' pain into eloquent forget-me-nots, told each other to Stay Strong.
Am I guilty? wonder why I'm still here?

A. No. I don't feel ill.

—Richard Fox


richard foxRichard H. Fox was born and bred in Worcester MA. He attended Webster University, as much artist colony as college, in the early 1970’s. These diverse cultures shaped his world view and love of words. He is a former President of Poetry Oasis, Inc., a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets, and was Managing Editor of its journal Diner. Richard’s poems have appeared in numerous journals including Above Place, Boston Literary MagazineOVSPoetry Quarterly, Midstream Magazine, and Worcester Review. A cancer survivor, many of his poems focus on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. Time Bomb, his first collection of poetry, was published in 2013. Richard seconds Stanley Kunitz’ motion that people in Worcester are “provoked to poetry.” smallpoetatlarge.com