T.S. Eliot was wrong: April is not the cruelest month; they are all equally unforgiving.

January blights the hope of a fresh start like blood shed on virgin snow.

February breaks hearts more harshly than unrequited Valentines.

March, bisected by its Ides and plots of regicide, itself scythes down the unsuspecting, more scimitar than dagger, cutting with betrayals that lurk closer than Brutus to Caesar.

April showers don’t always bring May flowers; sometimes they summon the gravedigger’s mud-caked boots. And after they stamp away over an isthmus of wet grass, morbid tropism clusters black umbrellas around a gaping maw of spade-shifted earth.

June offers vacations without respite to a dwindling family, bereft of a traveler gone where they cannot follow.

July’s celebrations of independence are tempered by the carnage of unchecked freedom, an anarchic riot that loots bodies of breath.

The August sun can offer no heat to banish the chill of lonely nights, when even the deserts can freeze in their vast emptiness.

September clears a seat at parents’ night, apostrophe shifting to the singular position for a student in mourning, now only one heartbeat away from orphanhood.

October swells the ranks of ghosts, November undercuts trite expressions of gratitude, and December taunts us to hang an empty stocking by a dormant fire, hollowing our holidays.

For cancer is as indifferent to the year as it is to good cells, trampling the days to which we would ascribe significance while it lessens their number, a twin scourge upon quality and quantity. It manufactures widows while it creates its own mirthless anniversaries: date of diagnosis, date of relapse, date of death. There is nothing it holds sacred, nothing high or holy. It worships itself alone, asserting its claim to immortality most vigorously, limited only by the finitude and frailty of its host.

There’s a cinematic cliché by which the filmmaker can imply the passage of time by having pages peel off a calendar, as if fluttering in a stiff breeze. Cancer does so with gale force, the Big Bad Wolf come to blow away the constructs we impose upon our years, installing instead its own bleak metaphysics. It hears only the relentless cadence of its own selfish breeding, and the beat goes on until the pulse, that ultimate timekeeper, is no longer the metronome of moments.


Mark Lewis