Blues for Nathan Davis | Cancer Poetry

Blake Lynch is a young adult testicular cancer survivor, sharing his cancer experience through poetry. View his IHadCancer profile to see other poems written by him. 

Blues for Nathan Davis by Blake Lynch

Poem I

Nathan Davis is dead, and has been for years,
outside the Mardi Gras Bar on Copeland Street,
where it’s so late in the night and the year, 
that the dogwoods shiver,
so cold it makes my knees wobble. 

My Saturday night heart is so lonely 
it almost feels betrayed,
like how he’d go into a minor key without warning, 
three quarters into Take the A Train

I don’t know where she lives anymore.
Please get me home, even though 
the check engine oil light has been on for a week, 
and I need a cane to get up the stairs, 

I’m afraid of falling.
Into what I don’t know.
Into how it was years ago,
in the dark with her red hair fallen down.

When I go, don’t put an oxygen mask on me, 
just give me a winter moon, 
a record playing, 
a saxophone wailing, 
calling out all the names I’ve known.


Poem II

I pick him up from West Penn Hospital, 
where the dust still finds its way in.

All the hopes of the naive,
who fall in love with the late night trains, 
obliterated by the first snow. 

Drive him home, while he winces
at every speed bump we pass over, 
due to the stitches keeping his groin together, 
cancels plans for the weekend and waits 

for blood to leak into his urine, or turn 
into the arms of the apple tree beside his house.


Poem III

After driving all night, I come to Charlottesville.
Market Street filled tables with the chairs still up,

This disease left my knees 
hurting on mornings like this, 
left me wishing I could turn 
into a hill,  and the only company 
the rain.

The women I’ve traveled with 
have heard it too,
this quiet romance, 
these broken stars.

One night drunk on bottom shelf whiskey,
she tells me that her grandfather died 
of testicular cancer too,
and became a dead bloom in the woods, 
leaves no one sees,
by a river that knows nothing 
about pain, and continues
flowing through the lost country. 

We don’t turn into hills, or anything, 
we continue being us. 

And beyond Charlottesville, there are mountains. 
And beyond those mountains, more mountains.
And beyond those, back roads.


Poem IV

His red blood cell count is low.
He imagines he is following
the last tracks of the fox
before it disappears into the woods.

The fox might be clever
or magical, the way it disappears.



Poem V

So say it and be done with it: 
we are the hunted,
we are a lost kind,
we wait forever for this disease 
to come back and turn us into small pools of light, 
empty tennis shoes, 
houses where no one ever returns, and the keys 
remain on the kitchen counter.

Someone says he had a life without any hesitation.

I want everything.

I want this world as dirty as it can be.
I want joy without hesitation. 
I want to go screaming into the dark
behind the wheel of this mad horse,
still stunned at the blanket of summer sky, 
and Clarence Clemons blasting the saxophone, 
and the way the snow falls down sideways
while my car is going too fast on city streets, 
and dumbfounded forever about what’s unsayable, 
and mute about what is lost.

For the wounded, 
for those of us who were left to wander
and make meaning from cancer, 
I paid for my ticket. I intend
to get everything that I can from the ride.