Waiting room – radiation oncology

She pauses at the threshold as if trapped
in a vacuum hand clasped to chest clutching
her last drop of oxygen.
She shuffles as though with her mother’s bound feet,
her interpreter checking her watch more than her charge.

Will she understand as they push her body this way that
until the triangulation of single-dot tattoos aligns?
Will she know to count the seconds –
one. by. one.

Will she wonder at the whiff of something not quite chemical,
feel the buzz that resonates behind her left temporal lobe?
She won’t feel the charged particles bombard her breast

not now

that will come later.

Imagine how she must feel.
If I were her, I would be too afraid to stay.

Carmel Summers


Carmel Summers’ first book of responsive tanka, The last day before snow (Malicorne Publications 2016), written with eight Australian poets, was awarded the ACT Publisher’s Award for Poetry in 2017. Her work appears in a number of collections and journals, in Australia and overseas. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Macquarie University.

© 2021