the healing muse

Volume 11, 2011

Off-Track Bet

Diane Halsted

It’s a bad bet
said the man who’s spent a lifetime
handicapping horses, selecting
daily doubles, quinellas and boxed exactas,
losing thousands and winning hundreds.

But now we’re talking about life.
What three docs said isn’t good:
biopsy, CT scan, tumors,
no surgery but chemotherapy
with its misery of nausea
and loss of lovely silver hair.
We already know what quality
of living comes vomitous and bald.

The fourth doc thinks out loud,
sizes up the field, handicaps
on the backside of Cancer Center note pad,
inks out a plan, and looks up:

I brighten; he sits,
still glum, thin, grey, dull.
Fifteen? That’s a long shot.

No, no, I amplify, clarify
as I often must in this partnership
of love: Fifty, not fifteen.
Fifty, that’s like the bets I place,
the ones that always pay something.

He looks up, more animated
than he’s been in weeks.
That’s a good bet.

Back to Volume 11, Table of Contents


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