Accompanying My Friend to Chemo by Alison Luterman

Accompanying My Friend to Chemo

She shows me how she draws in her missing eyebrows
with the little make-up kit they give out–
two umber arches
over wide, dark, expressive eyes;
then sparkly earrings, some lip gloss,
a soft fleece cap over her bald head,
and bunny socks.

In Oncology, hooked into her port-o-cath,
blue chemicals dripping from a bag,
she asks the nurse how she’s doing,
how’s the situation with her car.

Across the room a radiant woman in a headscarf
sits smiling, surrounded by daughters.
This is what’s happening
all over the world,
bald, beloved women minus their breasts
holding faith together in the chemo den.

And it’s not good literary technique to say
that women’s bodies are battlegrounds
in a war we did not start.
It’s not artful and it doesn’t begin to tell
this intimacy. Here we are, sipping tea,
flipping through People,
letting the hours slip by like slow honey.


Alison Luterman has published four previous collections of poetry, most recently In the Time of Great Fires (Catamaran Press,) and Desire Zoo (Tia Chucha Press.) Her poems have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Sun, Rattle, and elsewhere. She writes and teaches in Oakland, California.