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"Looking Up" - a poem on how a single word, a single diagnosis can change our lives forever

Updated: May 23

Looking Up

By: Jay Wong


The shortest distance between two people is a story,

And yours bridged the infinite gap between our worlds.

You stood on stage before a lecture hall bespeckled with eager white coats,

A patient presentation day--our curious eyes staring, ears propped and waiting.

You begin to speak, and the bindings of your diary that is your life started to come loose,

And in no time, you bore naked the markings etched on your pages.

Ensconced in a seat that was off to the side,

And hidden in a sea of monochromic obscurity,

I latched onto the quiver in your voice, and the courage behind your breastbone,

And listened closely to your story of how pages of words can go by,

Chapters even, in our radiant autobiographies,

While we remain asleep, not awoken, looking down instead of up.

Then unexpectedly, the word “metastatic” appeared on one of your pages,

The word seemingly bleeding off the paper,

Leaping out in front of you, stealing the breath tangled between your lips.

Your eyes lay transfixed on those ten letters,

Ten letters that are now suddenly bolded, underlined, and italicized,

Blurring everything before it and seemingly erasing everything thereafter.

You felt life ended on that very page, and your story over.

You lifted your pen off the page and placed it gently to the side.

Your head no longer buried itself in the weightless ink.

Your eyes no longer labored with the task of catching every punctuation.

Your hand no longer resigned to filling in the spaces with meaningless scribblings.

You said ten letters is what it took to lift your head, to make you look up.

Suddenly you wished you could drink all the sunlight that ever touched your skin,

Taste every oxygen molecule that ever filled the spaces in your lungs,

Capture in your hands the smell of every midsummer thunderstorm that ever passed,

Feel the gentle tickle of every winter snowflake that ever landed on your nose,

Hear the delicious crackles of every autumn leaf that ever crunched beneath your stilettos,

See forever every smile that ever planted between your daughter’s cheeks.

A veil was lifted and you were no longer blind to the world.

That was when one story ended and another began.

Your resplendent sequel emerged from the ashes of despair like a phoenix.

Your pen was raised again with great panache and your pages began to fill again.

Your former apathy was replaced with overflowing gratitude.

You saw that life was born on that very page, and your story just only beginning.

When you walked out of the hospital that day,

The sky never looked bluer, the trees never greener,

The air never fresher, the water never clearer,

The butterflies never prettier, the birds never handsomer,

The tears never saltier, and the memories never sweeter.

“All because I finally looked up.”


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