We don’t know, the oncologist instantly uttered
when asked what kind of cancer,
this tumor in my pelvic marrow,
growing like a potato in rich soil –
What kind?
We don’t know.
Which was probably the most honest
answer anyone has ever given me
about anything.
We don’t know.

We just know it’s cancer,
we still don’t know what kind yet

plays in my head like
an old Sesame Street jingle

One of these things just doesn’t belong here,
One of these things just doesn’t belong…

Four full weeks of waiting, four full weeks
of daily abandonment, exiled from understanding.
I don’t know what’s worse,
a grown man crying or a grown man
not knowing why he’s crying.
Maybe God talks to me
through my tears,
as if He is comforting me,
fingertips caressing my face
as tears trail down their fall from grace.

We’re shipping your biopsy samples
And medical notes to a specialty lab
Out of state.

“What state?”
New Jersey.

I ask him if this lab is located
anywhere near the garbage incinerators
I’ve seen from the highways and airplanes.
He assures me they are not, that he has been there
once, for a conference, but he remembers
the facility being closer to the beaches.

Why does it matter? Asking while shrugging
the way I imagine Atlas did, more than once.
“I don’t know,” is the most honest answer
I can give him, the best I have,
though the thought of any of my body
parts or samples anywhere near incinerators
makes me nervous.

The important thing is that New Jersey
Will let us know what kind of cancer you have.
They should know within a week.
They’re good. New Jersey.

I hope the delivery driver has enough toll money.
I hope they know within the week.
I don’t remember dreaming anything that night.
I just remember waking up, crying and laughing
at the same time, not knowing why,
other than maybe it had something to do
with New Jersey,
I don’t know.


José Gouviea is a poet, journalist & poetry radio personality who lives on Cape Cod. He is Poetry Curator at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, author of the Meter Man poetry column for the Barnstable Patriot newspaper in Hyannis, and host of the Poets Corner poetry radio show out of WOMR-FM in Provincetown. José’s reading of this poem was recorded at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Event hosted by Stone Soup Poetry.

Oddball Magazine is publishing poems by José as well as ongoing tributes to him in order to raise awareness of the Joe Gouveia Recovery Fund, an effort to help offset the costs of the poet’s upcoming cancer surgery.