©1992 Kira Carrillo Corser

Kira Corser, an award-winning photographer, had worked for public
broadcasting for ten years. She'd always told herself, when my kids
graduate from high school, I'll go into business for myself, do my art full
time. Health insurance would cost her $460 a month for herself and her
daughter. Her first year in business, she couldn't afford that. So she said
to herself, what can happen in a year. Six months later she got cancer.

   ©1992 Kira Carrillo Corser  


I. She wears the hang of a strong body,
walks six feet tall, size nine shoe,
holds the sky in her eyes.
Think you can defeat her?

You shall not have her, scorpion cancer
you shall not break her, you so-called healing
profession, healing industry, Medi-Cal, you supposed
healing arms of government

You've heard of the horse of Troy
the wooden decoy, hollowed out
and filled with warriors, delivered
as a gift to the enemy

She too has a plan, to resist
the two-pronged attack to disembody her:
the chemical warfare -- her body the battlefield --
and the healers' laws that deny care for the sick

II. When the fine doctor tells her she has a
growth in your ovary she cries, remembering
her mother in the tub, and the scar
where her breast used to be, and when he says

Sorry his hand already on the door I don't
take Medi-Cal
as if she doesn't deserve
his attention, as if she's not a person
and sick, she remembers I loved to build forts
as a kid in Georgia, to dig tunnels, to furrow through the dirt

And when the health insurance company, on embossed
letterhead, denies her insurance because she's sick, you have a
pre-existing condition
, and when her government accuses her
of being sick, finds her guilty of not earning money,
requires her to call herself indigent to get health care

She's coming apart
She digs in, she's a fortress

III. When the gaping wound isn't healing,
her belly red raw fishflesh, she's screaming,
doctors scraping out infection without
anaesthetic I forgot as if she weren't
underneath til you reminded me Resist I forgot
I could say no

When the nightmare begins after the chemo
surreal to wake in the morning and see hair
everywhere, a pillow of hair, hair stuck to the walls,
stuck to the tub, stuck to my hands
crying, looking in the mirror and crying
she's coming apart

And when she's inside the toilet bowl
lying crying on the bathroom floor
retching four hours straight This is the end
I've reached the limit, I can't take anymore

And Keith down with her on the tiled floor
you're a fighter you're beating the cancer
you've got a lot to live
for she kept remembering
her dream I shall ride camels in Egypt

©1992 Frances Payne Adler

   ©1992 Kira Carrillo Corser