Visitation with the Radiologist

“It’s not a good disease to have,”my doctor says.
I admire his grim honesty, I admire it
greatly. “Indolent, but it usually does progress.”
Which sounds about right for me.
Two years of misdiagnosed torment
and now this. I ask him about suicide.
He nods. “It happens,” he says.
When I tell him I’ve seriously considered it,
he says my disease would qualify me
for Death with Dignity, because
it’s incurable, though I might not meet
the six-months-to-live criteria,
just the unendurable pain part. Which will
come back after I’ve exhausted all the treatments.
“But they might make an exception
if it’s a choice between bending the rules
and blowing your brains out.”
This is my doctor, telling the truth, filters off.
I slide down into it as into a warm bath.
I want to stay here forever, ask him every question.
Maybe death is speaking through him.
What’s it like on the other side? I want to ask.
Once you’re dead, do you stop worrying
about what people think of you?
Are you allowed to intervene in the affairs
of the living, offer invisible advice now and then,
a nudge on the arm? How shall I live
with the time I have left is the real question.
I don’t ask it but let it blossom
into the room. This, this conversation,
this way of speaking, turns me
toward an answer.


Published in Ploughshares, Winter 2024