Dawn Cunningham

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change (an ongoing story of cancer)
after Toi Derricotte

the cancer is change
the cancer in change
the end of the cancer is change
to change in the cancer
to change by the cancer
to hold the change
in cancer
to be changed by the cancer
(the cancer is change)
to change by murdering the cancer
(the murdering is change)
to hold the change in the murderingArtwork by Gene McCormick
to hold the change by murdering
to be the change by murdering
to be the cancer
to breathe through the cancer
to breathe through the change
to breathe murder through the change
to breathe by murdering
to breathe the cancer
to breathe
in cancer
to change by breathing
to change by murdering
the change is breathing
to be by breathing
to hold the breath
to be by change
to be the change
to hold the murdering
to hold the cancer
to hold
in the cancer
to hold the change
to hold it
to be the cancer

& let it go


Can’t Do cancer

can     cer
can                  —what can
be done?          can—
such a small word; one letter more
than “do.”                   what can
a cancer patient do?                what can
a family do? Do they do? Do. Do. Do.
Do is empty. all the “doing” looks
like a ghost, just shadows of doers who
never truly exists, who
appear as apparitions
on the wall,
in the ear,
saying, “call me if
you need anything,” and all i want
is your time, is a listener, is
a little home-cooked food, is
a little relief from sitting here all day,
alone. Alone. Alone. Alone.

Do turns into DOO DOO
quite often. Do. a decision. everyone is mad.
you’re selfish. everyone lives. you don’t.
cancer does. the patient doesn’t. selfish.
Do. i run away. They Say. They Say. They Say.
you’re selfish.
i come back to reality. where
are They?

can     cer—                no sir, i’ve not
performed my best. left alone to do, not.
a thing. not
thinking straight, just lost, just alone, not
worthy of a thought.
Do. sir. Do you know how not
to live? how i live? not
how you live. Can. sir. Can you not
explain how all will be okay, but
explain what happened? where are all
the apparitions who

C   A   N   C   E   R
there’s a collective in cancer. i hear.
sir. cancer brings. people
together. at the beginning, only;
together. at the end, only. Family
together. blood is thicker
than water . . . ---------->        wrong.
blood is nothing but water.
marriage doesn’t . . . fatherhood doesn’t make a man.
sir? everyone ran away to not return.   what
is family? everyone is an Ass at some time,
even me. Do people stay an Ass? i Ask?
only those Ass i Ask. Ask asked Ass.
the end
Can’t Do.


I’m a young woman at heart going through a severe life change since 2010: divorce, adult child’s cancer, engagement, and moving away from my hometown for the first time—the creation is the real me, Dawn Cunningham, finally in the raw, the real, knowing that I exist.