Cradlesong May 18, 2016


(for Jessica)


How do I explain chemotherapy

to a six-year-old up in my arms

before I shed my coat?


How do I tell her I can’t

kiss her on the lips because

my white count is low, that

we must leave early because

Aunt Helen has a cold?


And when we go, she hides

in her room, face in the corner,

till I return and swallow her

in my arms—Damn it all—

I kiss her anyway

again and again.


And next time, she’s on my lap

staring in my eyes as if to see—

is there laughter behind them

or is that puppy on a leash, too?


She searches my face, then says,

“You’re losing your hair.”


I act surprised, “Where? Show me.”

She runs her hand along my scalp.


I lean into her little face,

“It’s still me.”


She takes my hand and out we go

as she shimmies on her swing,

pumping higher, giddy as she

eats the day, “Look! Uncle Mark!

I’m swinging till I’m High

as the Sun! Look!”


I push her with all my heart,

“Me, too, sweetheart—”

she comes back to me—

“me, too.”


A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, discuss what it means to act on your love.


Sounds True recently published a new, expanded edition of Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, which gathers twenty-eight years of my writing and teaching about suffering, healing, and wholeness, including thirty-nine new poems and prose pieces not yet published. One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world and made me a student of all spiritual paths. With a steadfast belief in our aliveness, I hope what’s in this book will help you meet the transformation that waits in however you’re being forged. Cradlesong is an excerpt from the book.

Browse Our Archives