Sanguine, Mostly


“You seem so calm.”


My doctor says this to me, when I call her

two days after diagnosis, ready

with lists of oncologists to consider,

my calendar open.  Let’s get this thing done.


She sounds almost worried that I

do not sound more worried, that perhaps

the truth hasn’t sunk in.  I rush

to reassure her that I have my weepy

moments. I’m just action-oriented;

I like to make plans and follow through.

I am more ready than she is.


“The waiting is the hardest,”

more than one person has said.

I doubt that’s true, but it is certainly

maddening.  I may procrastinate

unpleasant e-mail, tedious grading,

but when the truly terrible looms,

I’d rather dive in, headfirst.


The Greeks divided us by humour:

the excitable were choleric and melancholic;

the calm, phlegmatic and sanguine.


I am steadiest in the morning, when

I can do research with a clear head,

take calls, make plans.  I am even

calm enough to reassure the people

who love me, many of whom possess

a more mercurial temperament.


I am glad to do that for them, to

make small jokes, laugh it off.

Then evening arrives, and the weight

of the day descends, with all its petty

frustrations and greater fears.

Then I take to my bed, curl around

the drowsy dog, pull the covers high.


“You may just sail through this,”

my doctor says.  Maybe.  Maybe not.