I saw my mother for a total of three times
over the two years that she suffered from a disease
that took away the one person who loved me unconditionally.
I couldn’t gather words in my mouth, when someone
asked me what she was suffering from. I’d say it’s not serious,
she’s getting better, I’d say the doctors are still unclear
but never say cancer.
One noon I saw her collecting her locks of hair,
fallen when she tried combing them out thinly
to cover as much baldness as she could.
I saw them fallen in the feet of the little temple
that lies below a full-length mirror in her room.
She gathered up those clumps and folded her palms
in prayer, with her fists holding them tight.
I don’t know what she asked for, that noon in prayer
did she ask for this illness to recede?
did she ask for her hair to grow back?
I think she said, nothing like that ever happen to her daughter.
May my daughter’s hair grow long,
may she live long, may she live much longer than me.
Soon after she left us, I opened all of her files.
Scans, MRIs, X-rays, exposing life-taking tumors,
on a life-giving body.
I read each one of the reports, decoding their science
dropping of blood corpuscles, prescriptions of Tarceva
anta-acids and anti-depressants,
rate of radiation, catharsis of chemotherapy,
dosage of drugs, diaries of deterioration.
I learnt and spoke the language of cancer,
in hope that she might come back
because I had finally acknowledged
her suffering and its name.
I have taken this science and made it my own, every time
I cough, I go to WebMD and key in my symptoms,
an itchy rash or an under eye spot, absorbing
more sciences to learn about new diseases
that could potentially connect me to her
I touch myself like the magazine says
to look for odd lumps and swellings
But all I have is a swollen heart
and an inflamed sense of loss
no blood test can diagnose
The science of loss
is lost in me
Preeti Vangani lives in Mumbai, India and loves to experiment with theater & poetry. She writes page & stage poems, and has been passionately performing spoken word poetry around the world since 2012. With a knack for storytelling, Preeti likes to dive deep into questions around loss, regret and grief. She questions the status of otherwise commonplace relationships, often raising bold, introspecting questions about identity & gender through her personal experiences.