Like a Terror by Ally Malinenko

I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering,
or the shaking
as you handed me the plastic cup of water
and it sloshed down my arm
as you steered me towards the waiting room

after the doctor said
just to be sure
it’s probably nothing
but with your history
we can’t take chances

and then,

told me that I needed to go
sit in the waiting room and calm down
calm down

and you are walking me, holding my arm
like we are elderly
like we have grown old
in a way I fear we will never do
because of this disease
that has dug in
and won’t let me go

and when the door to the waiting room
opens and we step
like alien creatures
into a hostile land
I make eye contact
with an older woman
who is waiting
for what she knows will just
be a routine mammogram
because routine is what they have always been
as she reads the magazine
glancing up to see me,

my face tear streaked
not yet 40
having already gone
down into the trenches of this disease
she sees me shake
and her face drops
white and ash
she watches me like a warning
like a terror
like a thing she fears
she will become
and I will myself

Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collections The Wanting Bone and How to Be An American (Six Gallery Press) as well as the YA novel This Is Sarah (Bookfish Books). Forthcoming from Low Ghost Books is a poetry collection entitled Better Luck Next Year. She’s at @allymalinenko mostly talking about David Bowie, Doctor Who and stupid cancer.

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