Poem: Blood on the Sidewalk


Blood on the Sidewalk

Once again you are in this town you never see,
except for hospital halls and small rooms.
You park your bags and go eat in the hotel restaurant.
The waiter recognizes you and remembers.
“How are you doing?” he says. “Really.”

Yes, he remembers.
“I feel good.” I tell him.
“I find out how I am doing tomorrow.”
I don’t really believe it.
Neither does he. He’s been there, he says,
with his mother. He knows.

He knows how it never ends.
The wondering. The ever present possibility
that it is not over. That there is more to be done,
That all the pain and surgery and work and rehab
are just the step to more
pain and surgery and rehab,
That it weighs on you, not overtly, no, never that,
but never quite releasing you, a leech in the night,
small and insistent, not robbing you of joy,
but never quite releasing you to fly
without leaving
blood on the sidewalk.

About this poem.

I am in Concord, NH tonight, to meet with my surgeon and to do rehab. I stayed where we stayed last time, and the waiter remembered me. We had quite the conversation ranging from health to religion to some people seeming to be open to conversations and some not.

I find out tomorrow whether they really truly got everything. A 50% chance. I am hoping, more than that, praying I am in the right 50%. One of the things they don’t tell you is how wearing it is to go months and months, never knowing really where you are, and when you might be done, if ever.

I’m not whining. There’s lots like me, and many worse. Right now, just as I was before the surgery, I feel pretty good. But we need to understand that cancer, any cancer, is not a fix, it is a process, and a wearing one, and people go years sometimes, waiting, just waiting, for the other shoe to fall.

Be kind. All the time.



  1. There are many of us heart-whispering for you Tom…
    Each whisper saying “give him a place in the safe 50%”…..


  2. Tom, I always appreciate how you share your ‘about this poem.’
    Your poetry is ‘so real’ and I enjoy it so much!

    I understand your anxiety about tomorrow as I have been in a similar situation myself and then having to deal with my sister’s terrible illness, I have much empathy for you!

    You are inspiring and I have no doubt that your spirit will shine brightly through tomorrow.
    Thinking of you and sending prayers for good news tomorrow.

  3. Praying for you Tom. This poem is so real. My mother had the “big C” when I was 5 (many years ago). Even now I wonder if its caught me yet. Today will be a good day. Love you.

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