In the chemo room, I wear mittens made of ice so I don’t lose my fingernails. But I took a risk today to write this down.

Whenever I spend the day crying, 
my friends tell me I look high. Good grief,  

they finally understand me.  
Even when the arena is empty, I thank god  

for the shots I miss. If you ever catch me  
only thanking god for the shots I make,  

remind me I’m not thanking god. Remind me  
all my prayers were answered  

the moment I started praying  
for what I already have.  

Jenny says when people ask if she’s out of the woods,  
she tells them she’ll never be out of the woods,  

says there is something lovely about the woods.  
I know how to build a survival shelter  

from fallen tree branches, packed mud,  
and pulled moss. I could survive forever  

on death alone. Wasn’t it death that taught me  
to stop measuring my lifespan by length,

but by width? Do you know how many beautiful things  
can be seen in a single second? How you can blow up

a second like a balloon and fit infinity inside of it? 
I’m infinite, I know, but I still have a measly wrinkle

collection compared to my end goal. I would love  
to be a before picture, I think, as I look in the mirror

and mistake my head for the moon. My dark  
thoughts are almost always 238,856 miles away 

from me believing them. I love this life, 
I whisper into my doctor’s stethoscope

so she can hear my heart. My heart, an heirloom
I didn’t inherit until I thought I could die.

Why did I go so long believing I owed the world
my disappointment? Why did I want to take

the world by storm when I could have taken it
by sunshine, by rosewater, by the cactus flowers

on the side of the road where I broke down?
I’m not about to waste more time

spinning stories about how much time
I’m owed, but there is a man

who is usually here, who isn’t today.  
I don’t know if he’s still alive. I just know

his wife was made of so much hope  
she looked like a firework above his chair.

Will the afterlife be harder if I remember
the people I love, or forget them?

Either way, please let me remember.

Copyright © 2023 by Andrea Gibson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.