by Ethel Mortenson Davis

On an early walk,
a large rattlesnake
lay on the road
warming himself
from the freezing night.

His large head contains
flesh-dissolving venom.

With hearts pounding
we walk in an opposite
direction, in a large circle,
away from him.

A second snake
looms on the road.
We don’t know
what he will do.

We can’t step
away from him.

Instead we must
embrace him,
do the dance
with him,
while looking
into his yellow eyes.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

10 responses to “Cancer

  1. I have to smile as I read this. How literal and poetic! Makes me empathize!

  2. Shoot it stab it, it’s an evil unfair opponent! It will kill you without remorse if you don’t fight it.

  3. As metaphor for cancer, this is stunning and powerful!

  4. Caddo Veil

    To echo Betty’s words, it’s a powerful image.

  5. Beautiful and I must say, very brave.

  6. That is, indeed, the way it is, Ethel

  7. Anna Mark

    The colour yellow is so fitting, and the idea of embracing something that you cannot possibly turn away from or maneuver around is quite compelling. You know what cancer can do, you’ve seen the worst of it, but you don’t know this time what it will do, so you dance. This is an image of life meeting death, hope meeting fear, and it feels quite resolute, resolved to see the dance through. Emotionally stirring.

  8. This is a fabulous poem, Ethel. I have a couple of family members who are dancing with the snake and gazing into its eyes. One won’t survive, the fate of the other is uncertain. One woman accepts her fate with grace whilst the other fights the good fight.

  9. Very powerful, Ethel…the last stanza speaks of courage that is found when it is needed. Again, your poetry tantalizes the intellect while reaching into the heart of the matter. Beautifully affecting.

  10. When our body begins to betray us we have to discover something else to have faith in; if not we find ourselves in free-fall. My thoughts are often thought with you both.

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