Sitting in a long room of patients reading

or sleeping away the slow, drip, drip,

drip of today’s poison, I turn from the chapter

in which the detective is chasing the crook

and look to the far wall and what’s free:

above them says: two baseball caps,

two Giants baseball caps,  a gray fedora,

three black  berets, one yellow,

green, and black knitted crown of thorns,

the kind a Rastafarian might wear.

Below the hats hang wigs: a brunette

and a blonde, and one bright red bouffant,

straight out of the fifties like the flaming

hair a girlfriend of mine once swung

from side to side dancing The Monkey.

I start laughing, startling the thin

man sitting next to me awake.

He nods, smiling as if he knows

exactly what happened next,

that night after her hair stopped burning.

And I smile back, give him a thumbs up,

forgetting the needle taped to my wrist,

its clear tube snaking up my arm

to three days worth of sickness breaking free.

Alarms going off, nurses rushing

in my direction. Suddenly, both of us

are laughing louder than anyone should

in the middle of so much cancer, happy

so happy to break the silence of our disease.