M.J. Iuppa


There’s a vacancy in the sky where this morning’s sun is too bright to see— glint of ice melting— every cell failing to be water’s stakeholder, like my body changing in its destructive thoughts of healing.


I am no longer who I once was— woman, who bore three children, who marveled at the miracle of her body’s resilience to change over time and still be able to pass through years of narrowing and widening without thinking twice. Yet, here I am, struck to stone by my body’s betrayal— one cell to speak of in my right fallopian tube created this cancer that would spread in a network of freckles—all connected— building and bumping into shape-shifting shadows on a CT scan. It terrified my doctor to read the report to me.


“Sorry to meet you under these circumstances,” my oncologist said; then, hand-writ, “to cure” on my chart’s prognosis. I agreed to six cycles of infusion, with radical robotic GYN surgery, either at the midpoint, or end, or not at all. I didn’t realize what not at all meant. I thought it meant cure without need of surgery; but, in truth, it meant end of the road, or simply, nothing more can be done. Cancer exists in the conditional tense, which depends on the word “if.” If you can suffer the IV drugs, you will participate in your cancer’s prolonged act of dying. You will have mixed feelings about what you’re doing; and, once the cancer has been arrested, and you’re close to crossing the finish line, you’ll wonder how the next six months to five, ten, fifteen years will unfold without this constant vigil. All you can think about is travel— if you could be anyplace but here.


Reality has a way of making me feel ill at ease. Even though I have met the terms and conditions of ovarian cancer with a double dose of gallows humor, I am shy of accepting good news. Whenever nurses say one and done, I feel a slight catch in my throat. Can I say yes to life’s on-going change, one moment to the next, with its swirl of mercurial green shadows? Will I grab hold of the rope of the ship’s bell and ring it three times, loud and brash, knowing it will echo in my ears—that instant of immortality— the knot of trust, tightening and loosening, with its sound that speaks in volume, like the vacancy in the sky?

Thinking of a Cure for Cancer after Looking at Thousands of Eyeless Fish Wash Up on a New Zealand Beach . . .
                                              ~after Lucia Perillo

Quite by chance, I caught something . . .
I blew up like a blowfish, three times
my size, ingesting huge qualities of

saltwater, just to appear un-wielding—
utterly dreadful— my body became

a trapdoor to the down under, where I
bobbled among thousands of snappers,

racing blind against the tide’s whiplash—
crashing upon the stretch of white sand

where they took their last breaths side
by side by side, and I was stuck there

a shriveled star in morning’s bright
world— I had one thought & nothing.

M.J. Iuppa's fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 30 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.
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Blogger M.J.Iuppa said...

Thank you, Mark Young, Editor for accepting this work.
I so appreciate Otoliths, and all the work you do to keep our words circling the world.

3:09 AM  

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