My face in the mirror looks raw
as seafood. The dawn feels limp
against my skin. Yesterday a friend
reported that his liver cancer
has claimed his other organs,
revising and reordering them
in defiance of their Latin names.
Six months to live, if he’s lucky.
If it would help, I’d let him look
through my gaze at this image
too unfamiliar to kill him.
Nose bulbous as ginger root,
mouth a gash imperfectly healed,
eyes lifeless behind glasses
thick as the soles of old shoes.
On the far edge of America,
he lives with a mother almost
a hundred years old and doomed
to survive her eldest son.
The slush of the timber-heavy coast
of Oregon soothes most wounds,
and Mount Hood spikes the horizon
with a ghostly presence subject
to the censorship of weather.
My friend hasn’t learned to focus
on the geometries around him,
but insists that the human spirit
echoes something larger, fainter
but absolute. My face clenches
like a hermit crab. I’m repelled
by dimensions the mirror fails
to reflect and flatten and control.
But if cancer is a dimension
beyond control, then the tumble
of the sea on volcanic rock
seems more useful than scripture
for cataloging our loss.