Sunday | Cancer Poem by Dan O'Brien

Dan and his wife lived in a downtown NYC apartment when 9/11 occurred. Fourteen years later, both were diagnosed with cancer. Dan weaves the memories of these experiences into two powerful poetry collections: Our Cancers: A Chronicle in Poems, and his new collection Survivor's Notebook. IHadCancer has received permission to publish one of his newest poems for our community. If these words resonate with you today, feel free to write a message to Dan in the comments.




O may it be Sunday always and everywhere in California. Blemishless
women with breathless cheekbones wavering in line for coffee. My girl
in the back seat, her mother beside me. Unseen whistling for the tabby
as coyotes lope through alleys; we park downslope. Bowers garlanded
in blush. I press my daughter’s body to my body and carry her through
the chlorine cavity. Beneath polluted arteries. The enlarging bright
aperture of sand. Then waves that pain my feet: my senseless skin
revivifying in the effluvial flop and stream. I am becoming less and more
myself. Renascent. The mountain snows dribble from a drainage pipe
like the seminal Jordan. Seagulls alight as if to say, Look where you are
standing. For this you have survived. Our daughter laughs as she pummels
us both. O may it be always and everywhere now.


Excerpt from Survivor's Notebook (Acre Press, 2023). Photo courtesy of author.