On poetry and mourning

Kamran Javadizadeh in The Yale Review:

Ninety-three days before she died, my sister sent me a message. Five and a half years earlier, Bita had been diagnosed with stage four intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and deadly form of cancer. She was forty-three. There was a thirteen-centimeter mass—roughly the size of a grapefruit—in her liver. When the radiologist friend who’d helped get Bita into Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center saw me in the hospital corridor after her diagnosis, he burst into tears.

Bita had been in treatment ever since; I had been beside her for nearly every appointment. They tended to be on Mondays: I’d take the train from Philadelphia to New York City and meet her in the waiting area of her oncologist’s clinic. Inside, I’d watch and listen and take notes. I discovered I had a talent for explaining to the doc­tor what my sister wanted to know but was reluctant to ask directly, and for explaining to Bita the implications of what he’d actually said rather than what she was afraid she’d heard. I’m a poetry critic and a teacher. What I did in the oncologist’s clinic was not so dif­ferent from what I do in the classroom or on the page. I listened and redescribed what I’d heard; I connected threads, or tried to.

More here.