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Orlando Mondragón, translated by Shalini Rana


It weighs between fifteen and thirty grams.
It measures four to six centimeters.
The thyroid
is a butterfly
wrapped around the neck.
How easy to explain with words
the places of the body.
Say bronchial tree
and branches are born looking for oxygen.
Say pupil
and a child sits in the center of the eyes.
But when my friend says
it’s another animal
in her throat.

She says cancer and blood,
the skin, the cold
they splinter.

My friend smiles
as if she doesn’t care.
She has trained herself not to show
in moments like this.
But this time she has no use for
her white coat
nor the mask of compassion
she wears in the hallways.
It is she who must break the news to herself.
She focuses on the task at hand
so as not to think about what’s next.

Diagnosis. Prognosis.
In other words:

My friend says cancer
but she does not grieve. She doesn’t want to.
She doesn’t have time.
I want to offer her
a word that hurries the days forward
and place my arm on the needles.
How thin are the words
to say

and not break.

Maybe I’m the one who fears the most.
Not the ending
but of its proximity.
To my own throat.
All this time I looked at the disease
like one who offers
his glass of water to the fire.
The rescuer,
not the rescued.
But reality has always been
a house of mirrors
that makes us question
the place from where we observe.

My friend brings
my hand to her throat.
Do you want to feel? Touch.
Do you feel it?

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