by Carmen H Gray


In the bath that night

When your hair of coppery wine

Fell out without a fight

Your cells committing suicide

A part of me died, too

They all told me, “this is hardest on the mother”

But I kept up appearances for you

I held in the fears and tears for the sake of others

Keep them all in smiles

Don’t disappoint

Hide the real hardship, the trials

Stay on point

The malignancies in both of us

Were put to rest

Releasing me from the superfluous

All that I had suppressed

In my long-running attempts to be infallible

Liberating me from my selfhood

Learning that the real “me” is valuable

Beyond a perfectly imperfect motherhood




Full Circle


C Words

by Carmen H Gray

Cancer, I refused

To accept your terms

And conditions for her

So I conjured

In my creative consciousness

These words instead

No matter the circumstances

I would stare

At my C words

Day and night

 And think to myself

Words hold weight

Life Twice

“Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it”-Hunter S. Thompson

Life Twice

by Carmen H Gray

One is the hand that was dealt

One is what emerges, how it is felt

One is the flush

One is the bluff

One is how to set yourself free

One is only what you choose to see

One is an excess of this

One is the lacking, all remiss

One is blithely balanced on wire

One is sinking into the quagmire

A living Hell or a Paradise

 In this Life Twice

The In Between

For My Beautiful Warrior

by Carmen H Gray

Somewhere along the road

Between sickness and health

Between nightmares and fantasies

A new me was forged

The poisons churned inside me

And those long, shadowy nights

When my hands served as my sight

Forever marked me

Like the permanent scars

That show where I was sliced

Somewhere along the way

I rose from this place

My wings unfurled

My strength anew

My heart unbroken

I came through

The In Between


Exhale to Life

Exhale To Life

by Carmen H Gray

A rush of tears

Like a deluge in the summer heat

Flood my bruised heart

Cleanse my mind

The Great Exhale

That was in a holding pattern


New Life




Into me

The swelling and pain

Blue-black wound



Into a flesh tone

Of normal 


Zen and The Art of Survivor Maintenance


PET Scan

by Carmen H Gray

Whirring noises are the sounds of birds in flight

The cold air a misty San Francisco morning in the depths of summer

Prayers whispered to Whoever while my hand touches the soft fuzz of her delicate hair

Delicate shell, the inverse of Her being, Her soul, Her unconquerable spirit

We are not in that sterile place of radioactive inspection

We are in our own private world where time and beauty bless us

With their perfect embrace

The Sweetness in Real Time

My daughter and one of her best friends, who happens to be a boyIMG_20140829_171832 (1)

Caring transcends imaginary social boundaries that we create.

Today, after my daughter’s appointment with her oncologist (a check up, which revealed fantastic blood counts and all things wonderful still), we headed to the art store (I’m beginning to think this art store is another ancient holy site-the things that happen to me near here).  On our way, we couldn’t help but notice smoke billowing up into the sky.  Directly above us on the overpass was an SUV, the front end engulfed in flames, several firetrucks, police cars and ambulances were beginning to surround the scene. We watched in awe as a good samaritan had stopped to help out.  He pounded on the back window of the SUV with a crowbar, intent on getting into the car. Within minutes he was taking a baby carrier out of the car and handing it to EMS workers, who were racing in behind him.  Then, we watched as he and another bystander took it upon themselves to assist the fire fighters get the hose directed toward the car as quickly as possible.  I was just amazed at the kindness displayed by everyday people.  People who put the care of someone else ahead of their own needs.

Suddenly, I felt someone’s eyes on me.  I looked over and there in the car sitting directly next to us in traffic was my former neighbor, who I had not seen since running into her at the store in the summer, right after my daughter’s cancer diagnosis.  In the midst of the insanity, we rolled our windows down.  “She’s free and clear!!”  I pointed to my daughter.  My former neighbor just smiled her amazing smile at us, “I love you!!!!”, was all she had time to say before the light changed.  And really, that’s all that needs to be said most of the time to each other.