On the Far Edge of America

By William Doreski

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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.

William Doreski