To My Polyp

Paul McLaughlin

So what the hell am I supposed to do with this--
this full-color computer-generated photograph
of a polyp--four photos, actually,
four different angles on my colonic polyp.
My ex-polyp, to be precise--the surgeon didn't 
hand it to me in a little bottle of formaldehyde
as they rolled me out of the OR.
I wonder what he did with it
after he snipped it out.
Do you suppose he's a collector?
Has shelves and shelves of little bottles
of formaldehyde full of tiny polyps?
Which would make his polyp, I guess.

Okay. Stop that. Look at the photo again.
The thing that pops out at you is
how clean my colon is--how clean and pink it is--
that sodium phosphate they gave me sure worked-- 
that and two days of projectile shitting--
that was not fun. And how small my polyp is.
Half a centimeter. The size of a match head.
Now that everyone is quitting smoking,
does anyone remember how big a match head is?
Will we have to abandon yet another perfectly good metaphor
because no one has a clue what it means any more?

All right, all right. Stop again. Look again. Reflect.
You know, this is the first generation
that has actually been able to see its polyps.
For all we know, polyps didn't exist
before they started shoving those scope things
up people's asses and poking around.
For hundreds of thousands of years, assholes
were one-way gates that let things out.
Now they let things in. This is progress?

Dammit, don't joke! Stop and reflect. Reflect.
What the hell am I supposed to do with this,
this damn photograph of my polyp?
It looks like a tiny shiny mushroom bud,
poking its little head out of the wall
of my intestine. And it's gone, like I said.
But if it had stayed--that's what I need
to think about--if it had stayed,
it would have grown, of course,
because that's what polyps do,
they grow. They grow into lumps,
and those lumps become--
say, did you hear the one about the lawyer,
the surgeon and the--stop it!
They grow into lumps that become--
how about those Oilers, eh? Could go
all the way this year--forget the Oilers!
Polyps in grow into lumps that become tumors
like the one they cut out of my sister Ann,
like the one they cut out of my Aunt Wilma,
like the one that killed my uncle Don,
like the one that killed my grandfather
before I was born, like the one that killed
my mother, like the one that's going to kill
me. Its all there in the genes, in the lines,
in the blood, this over-abundance of cells
that pop out of the side of the colon
and form polyps
and kill you.

I stare at this photograph of the match-head-sized
polyp they snipped out of my clean, pink colon
and come face to face with a simple fact:
odds are, I'm going to die from colon cancer.
I'm going to die from a polyp they don't find
in time and snip out, a polyp that grows
out of control and becomes a tumor,
a polyp that drops me to the floor,
clenching my gut and shitting blood, dying,

So go to hell, little polyp. With a clenched will,
I defy everything you stand for.
Go live in a formaldehyde bottle
as far away from me as you can.

Go to hell, little polyp.

January 2002


   Click here to see my polyp