I Sit Here Waiting

I sit here waiting,
like all the others
in hospitals across the country
on time for their four thirty
radiotherapy appointment,
clutching their plastic bags,
curtained off in their cubicles,
raw recruits in the
fight against cancer.

I don’t feel like a fighter,
as I climb up
onto the hard bench;
more like a slab of meat
to be pushed and pulled about,
marked, measured,
annotated, tattooed,
prepared for the stun-gun.

I lie here waiting,
arms behind my head,
helpless in the slave-girl position,
not able to scratch my own
twitching nose, while
the great arm of the machine
moves around, choosing
the angle from which to ravish me.

I can’t see me in an army
repelling an invader,
my very self turned enemy.
I while away the tedium
thinking of interventions,
historic heroic treatments –
leeches, cuppings,
unanaesthetised amputations,
lobotomies, electric shocks.

I lie here waiting
to get off the bench
and out of the gown,
away from treatments,
appointments, protocols,
targets, plastic bags,
waiting to become
my impatient self again,

not defined by a number,
no longer at the mercy of
professional concern,
no longer held to ransom
for my ration of sympathy,
my fifteen minutes of shame.

In the changing cubicle I find
the four forty-five, gowned,
green-bagged, patient,
maybe feeling grateful,
sitting there waiting.