Image: Getty
Image: Getty

BooksMay 5, 2023

The Friday Poem: ‘Diagnoses’ by Lincoln Jaques

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

A new poem by Auckland poet Lincoln Jaques.


The Surgeon’s office has no windows.
False light encrypts the room in secrecy.
On the wall a screen-printed picture of a forest
with trees stripped of their bark, the colours muted,

framed diplomas from the same university I attended.
She looks my age but I can’t tell; the mask she wears
hides all those details. We have become used to the faceless.

My wife’s breast is on the monitor, glowing out of the dark
background of the MRI image. All the rivers leading down
like an arctic icecap slowly melting. Like the arctic, the room
is becoming too warm.

The Surgeon points out the nipple with the sharpened
end of a 2B pencil, as if we didn’t know it existed.
All the rivers lead to a tiny supernova, a cluster of stars
surrounding it: The Growth.
And another further downstream
taking all the excess
luggage with it.

And throughout, when one looks closer, molecular clouds like sand
thrown into the sun. Gravitationally bound to the supernova.
Slowly expanding.

While on the other side of the world, they have bombed all the hospitals,
they have demolished all the cancer clinics, they have destroyed
the maternity facilities; all the mammograms and MRIs and X-Rays
and CTs and PETs and ultrasound. Mothers are giving birth in the dark
crypts of apartment blocks next to the belching sewage pipes, the dying
are being wheeled out into the streets. The radiotherapy is no longer
contained to a targeted spot. The diagnoses are even more
frightening for them than in the windowless office of our Surgeon.

And what comes now? And what comes next? And then, what…?

In the park, afterwards, I pour coffee from a flask.
Words try to float between us but get caught in the holocaust
of silence. I remember seeing the image of a woman on her knees
in Beijing, begging for her husband to be released from lockdown
to attend cancer treatment. And I think, I would do the same.

Here in the park it’s turning into Autumn and the edges of leaves
tell us we are moving further away, we are moving out of reach,
until the moment when we can no longer touch or see one another;

that moment when the horizon melts all that is left of us.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed.

Keep going!