Poem: “Dancing With Dex”

Dancing with Dex

She takes the woman’s part, stepping back on her right

I try to lead, pushing her back into night

What color is cancer

Asks this sexy salsa dancer,

Her long, lovely hands on my hefty hips

Suggestions and questions on her bright white lips,

Turquoise and teal, I think

And maybe periwinkle and pink

The dream was so real,

I can still feel

That I have the port, the sox and the gowns

Tape over my eyes, doctors in multiple towns.

Who was there? She asked with a squeal,

Oh, yes, I repeated- it was so incredibly real-

You were there -and you were there- and you and you and you

Who, me? She demurred. Do you honestly believe that it could have been true?

She steps to the side, wanting to know

Sliding forward and backward ever so slow,

Am I a good witch or a bad witch

Or just a subborn and silly, mucked up middle aged bitch?

What happened in there, when the fog finally cleared?

Didn’t heaven want you, she perservered?

Are you kidding?

Cha cha cha ching.

I’m stuttering

And faltering

Without a sound mind and no sense of my body?,

No, Heaven did not want me

Nor did hell

I wanted to yell

Not even that black hole filled with failure and fun,

Carousing and constantly, caprichously coming undone

Not even the fury and the flames would take

Such a distorted identity- half asleep/ half awake

So, its back to black and white

Without too much fuss, certainly no fight

Thank G-d -Thank “I am that I am”

For all the drugs whose names end with “pam”

And for those that begin with an s and a z

I truly and humbly thank the Drug Company

The salsa surrenders to sappier rythms

That belong to stupid labels that end in isms

Ba, ba ba ba-expressionism, successionism, ba, ba ba ba

Bada bada bada bada-excapism, impressionism -za zah zah zah,

Was that how cancer looked? She pointed and begged.

Like a saggy old breast that’s been recently egged?

I laughed loudly and pulled up my shirt

So she could see where it did and didn’t hurt

What’s the hole for, she wanted to know.

It’s my new hideout, where my feelings can go

I thought it was a dream, she harshly restated

Something you imagined, subconscious, and hated

It was -It was so many nights of turquoise and periwinkle, fuschia and teal dreams

Where the fabric of uniforms regularly rips out around the snaps and on the seams

Where I got up at night, or so I thought

Turned on the light, never argued, never fought

Rocked in the rocker

Listened to Joe Cocker

He loves my new do, and so does my Jon

“Baby, oh, yes, you can leave your hat on, you can leave your hat on.

I ripped up the colors on the couch and computer as prayers to dead saints

Glue sticked and cried , cutting linoleum and spilling watered down paints

I won’t go back I scream, I won’t do it again-you can’t make me

Now I’m numb and I’m dumb, I’m stress and panic free

There, there, my sweetness, she hums and she sways -Everything’s okay

I’ll start another dance, and you start another day

She twirls sultrily toward me, and whispers, shhhhhhhh, girlfriend,

we’re almost finished- finally,



coming to the end.

~Viola Moriarty, 2008

This poem emerged as I deconstructed the journals– kept during cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2007-9–ripped out the photos, layered paints and pastels—wiping out the non-essentials, focusing on the faces of the caretakers and the color of the experience. The edges hold messages of love—also torn from the cards and emails pasted into the journals. Walking back through these artifacts, through the human contact and care, became another therapeutic step, as was making each piece in the exhibit.

*note: Dex refers to Dexamethasone, This poem was a reflection upon effects of steroids during chemotherapy.

Copyright ViolaMoriarty 2008

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viola moriarty

(American, b. 1958)
Modern Expressionist Painter
2012-13 Recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

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Current and ongoing: New Works, Allegro Ristorante in Bennington on Main Street.

Elm Street Market, Bennington

Spiral Press Cafe, Manchester, Vermont (2013) details TBA

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