On the day when your blood cells proclaimed a civil war upon your bone marrow,
You were seventeen and six months past being the perfect baby boy.
Our high school became the echo of a blood drive without a single donor
The syringes were wailing for a lover
They found home clawing at the valley of your arm.
We are mountains.
We are invincible.
We are not meant to come to harm.
I spent the next weeks obsessing my bones with facts that killed each other off
Almost as quickly as your immune system doubled over in the pain of a fresh assault.
All the statistics say this disease is age’s fault.
But you were not old enough to start running from God.
And I have never seen anyone’s body taken so far from God.
We were praying to the hems of lab coats.
They were stitched from the white wings of angels who had forgotten to float and fallen to earth.
You were never an angel.
But you looked at each day as a brand new birth.
And, God, you were worth so much more than those six months of war.
It is a word that no one knows how to define
Save for that each transfusion burned track marks into your skin
And your eyes were so fucking thin.
You were only sheets hanging on the clothes line of your finest suit.
When a cancer patient dies, what does that sound like exactly?
Do the cells in the body stop detonating themselves?
Does the breath of an ocean fill the empty air space
Long enough for me to press my ear to your shell
And hear pallored lips stop spelling sickness and start whispering peace?
You had death sentences written on your arms that no one wanted to read.
And this, this is not just for you.
This is for everyone who has become the spine of an unpublished book
Worn too thin from trying to fight the wear and tear of what it is supposed to be.
This is for everyone who has endured more than science said they could,
Until their knees began searching the floor
For pennies when their luck had run out on them.
This is for those whose luck has run out
And left its bags packed beneath the cracking doors of their eyes
Like catacombs for the barely alive.
This is for those who are still waiting by the phone to say
Baby please come home.
I was wrong.
I want to fight for this, because in this life,
This is for those who belong,
Who have prevailed,
Who have sailed across oceans of radiation and lived to tell the tale.
But mostly, this is for you.
This is for a boy I can only write about when the pen bleeds blue.
It has taken me too long to write this poem.
There were doors and caskets I didn’t want to open.
But you were always open.
So this is for fighting.
This is for forgiving.
This is for loving.
And always, always,
This, is for living.
Author’s note: A role model of mine once said “You have to start writing the things you are afraid to write.” I thought about that. What scares me to put into words? This piece took me nine months to sit down and finally write. In December, my entire graduating class lost a dear friend to cancer. This is for him, and for going the distance.