_____ _____, (birthdate). I slide my left arm out of the pink hospital wrap before the technician says Good. Twenty-five days of _____ _____, (birthdate) & the response, Good, that’s you. Each step of cancer treatment becomes its own type of ritual. With chemo: Say your name & birthdate, Heparin to clean the port, water & snacks, the hot blanket, Decadron & antinausea IVs first, the dietitian’s Are you eating?, tonguing my mouth sores while I lie about not eating spicy food, then the Red Devil, later Taxol, constructs of time disintegrating, beeping monitors, more Heparin, the See you next weeks. Now with radiation: day-after-day of No I have not fallen since yesterday, No I have not come into contact with someone who has Covid since yesterday, waiting room florescence, We’re ready for you, bare chest, hospital wrap, locker key, my name my name my name, my birthdate my birthdate my birthdate, bare chest, laying on the table with the head-neck-shoulder pillow molded to my form, the country music station, thinking about my dislike of country music but feeling like a shit because it’s not my space, the technicians closing the two-feet thick radiation door, the interior conversation about keeping my eyes closed or open while the machine runs, closing my eyes, opening my eyes, the intercom voice saying Breathe in & hold your breath, closing my eyes, opening my eyes, counting second-by-second on each breath-hold, one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, worrying a shallow breath will melt my innards, worrying too deep of a breath will melt my innards, sound of the machine starting & stopping reminds me of Ripley using the power loader to fight the xenomorph queen in Aliens, looking into the gray-brown lead to memorize the shape of the anvil & thinking of all that hammers me today & how I’d rock that power loader suit too—make those metal hips shake shake shake— & Sigourney Weaver & I would create a choreographed dance where we lock massive wrench-hands & twirl & twirl & twirl until my motion sickness kicks in & I throw up in front of Sigourney & she laughs saying I still throw up on merry-go-rounds & we take off the power loaders & head to Urban Artifact to drink sour beers & talk-laugh about all the monstrosities itching to burrow inside us—itching to break us but can’t.

Felicia Zamora is the author of seven books of poetry including, Interstitial Archaeology, forthcoming in 2025 from the Wisconsin Poetry Series, I Always Carry My Bones, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize (2021) and the 2022 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry, and Body of Render, Benjamin Saltman Award winner (2020). She’s won the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, and C.P. Cavafy Prize and received fellowships and residencies from CantoMundo, Ragdale Foundation, and Tin HouseHer poems appear in Best American Poetry 2022, Boston Review, Guernica, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, Orion, Poetry Magazine, and others. She is an associate professor of poetry at the University of Cincinnati and poetry editor for Colorado Review.

Artwork by Marvin Liberman