Sonnet 40

by Thomas Davis

The doctor, looking down at him, her voice
as soft as early springtime rains: “I hate
how cancer takes a person, steals their choice,
and makes inevitable their certain fate.”
She paused, a stranger. Then she shook her head.
“He was extraordinary. You can tell.”
She gently touched his clutched-tight hand, the bed…

“He asks the nurses how they are. The hell
he’s going through, he wants to know if they’re okay.”
She sighs and looks at Ethel, then at me.
“This ward is tough. Old cancer never plays,
but does his business, never lets us plea

for mercy.” Silence. “Fighting him is hard.
He leaves us memories, our lives in shards.”


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

25 responses to “Sonnet 40

  1. I liked the whole thing but your punchline was the best!

  2. This is so moving Thomas, the cruelty of the disease. I am quite lost for words, although I will say there is so much strength in your words it leaves me feeling very humble
    Take care

    Christine x

  3. dfb

    What can I say, Thomas? Except, how can we understand? My mother in law was taken by the disease eight years ago – the memory doesn’t subside… Marvellously expressed, such poignant honesty. Take care.

  4. My father died of cancer when I was 29. My mother survived a different cancer and grew old. I’ve seen young people dear to me lose their earthly lives to this illness. One thing I know, it helps others to have their pain expressed by someone who knows. Take care from me too, Ellen

  5. Caddo Veil

    Oh wow–you know how these sonnets about Kevin get to me. So beautiful, rich–and then comes the angry sadness. God bless you both today, Thomas and Ethel.

  6. Scriptor Obscura

    I have no words.

  7. With deep heart-feelings, thank you for sharing this, Thomas. It is a cruel disease, and I just want to give you and Ethel both a hug….

  8. Anna Mark

    The words in this Sonnet silently move me far beyond its form and rhyme. In this Sonnet you have capture both the terrible darkness of dying and an enduring brightness which, for me, lies in those shards.

  9. J.B. O'Shea

    Wow. Written so well it feels effortless. But it’s also constricting, and intrusive – hard to shake. My heart goes out to you.

  10. You take those shards and turn them into music. I think he would like that.

  11. Such a moving poem.

    It is a fitting tribute I think to a special person – your son.


  12. I want to echo the comments of others. This is very moving, both as a poem and as a tribute to your son.

  13. The emotion and the realness of this poem is hard to put into words. Thank-you for sharing this tribute with us.

  14. May I recommend “After the Cancer What Now”. A real life experience of a good friend of mine… a 14 year battle with cancer, which he won.

  15. Watching your child die is not the natural order of things ,your honesty is unflinching and accentuates the poignancy within this sonnet. As strange as it may sound I gather comfort from your sonnet . One thing I’ve struggled with is writing anything for my child.As always thoughts and prayers on your behalf

  16. Yes, leaves us such terrible memories

  17. Well written and heartfelt of course.

  18. This Sonnet just perfectly captures the pain and the bravery and the love of going through cancer, both for the sick individual and the loved ones gathered by his/her side!

  19. I’m so sorry for your loss. I do think this is a fantastic modern sonnet. The form works so well as a vehicle for your story…the way you’ve utilized enjambment, for one, is extremely effective. I love the everyday language approach as well, and the way it contrasts (in my mind) with this often difficult form.

  20. Oona Hays

    Your poem moves me. There is a quietness within it and yet it is so alive, a deep knowing that recognizes the big and little things for what they are and sees the beauty in life even if in more than one way it tears us into shreds.
    I heard that you had surgery and I have been thinking about you and sending you many thoughts of health and wellness. I miss reading your comments on my poems.

  21. You have great strength Thomas, your words are inspirational. My best wishes.

  22. ““He was extraordinary. You can tell.””

    Yes, we are all extraordinary, but some even more than than that. I also often return to that old adage: “It takes one to know one”. It is frequently used in a negative way, I know, but I use it in a more positive way; the doctor, in showing her appreciation of him, reveals her own heart. This is, in fact, a poem overflowing with love, and the sweet/bitter pain that always accompanies true loving. “It takes one to know one” resounds across the universe. Thank you for this beauty-full reminder of that simple but profound truth.

    ““He was extraordinary. You can tell.””

    Clearly, he still is.

    • Ben, thanks for this. Your final comment, “Clearly, he still is,” gets to part of the point of fourwindowspress. Kevin is gone, and he won’t return, and his family misses him so deeply, but he left us gifts in his photography, poetry, and design. He computer code, of course, was, and maybe still is, studied in Japan because of its elegance. Steven Federle made this same point, expressed in a different way once, and he is still extraordinary even though I can no longer pick up a telephone and try to talk to him.

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