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doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000291639.67776.d9
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“Poetry is the spontaneous outpouring of powerful feelings…emotions recollected in tranquility.” —Wordsworth

The world of poetry is a means of expression and source of comfort for many people who care for cancer patients. This periodic column spotlights poems written by oncologists, oncology nurses, oncology pharmacists, and other cancer caregivers. We welcome submissions—Please e-mail them to

These poems are written by Frank Meyskens, Jr., MD Director of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Professor of Molecular and Biological Chemistry at the University of California, Irvine, and a Member of OT's Editorial Board. He notes that the first poem, “A Father's Prayer,” is about a colleague, and the second one, “Snowflake,” is about a patient with melanoma whom he cared for as an attending physician some 25 years ago during the last two weeks of the patient's life. “She was probably the first patient I cared about as a person,” Dr. Meyskens says. “Although many years have come and gone since then, she still haunts my unconsciousness.”

A Father's Prayer

This malignant curse

this sequence of nucleotides

did take you away.

Nana and momma and wife

And now you daughter,

love of my life.

Do I really care if

it is BRCA 1 or BCRA 2?

Do I really want to know?

The last time I saw you

you were young,

but in an instant

the shock and revelation

has taken you away.

And I have aged beyond

my years

and time I have been allotted.

But I must be,

I must be

here for you

and the daughter you will never know.


You were my first.

With a face like gossamer,

parched skin,

muscles like shrunken pears

But your eyes twinkled,


and easy.

The darkness crawled over you

like an oil slick on glass.

I thought that

your beseeching was for you

But your eyes sanctioned my clumsiness,

and flickered.

An ache at midnight.

You are not there,

but the twinkle is,


and easy.

I reminisce your fingertips

And remember that you were from,

Snowflake, Arizona.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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