A river runs through my vein, courses red
and purple along the length of my arm,
takes with it the poison to destroy
the interloper who’s found a home
in my breast. Three hours of feeding
my body this potion of drugs, I
stagger outdoors, suck in fresh air,
while this river burns inside,
stings, does its job. A river runs
through the moors, courses clear
and pure through the heather
padded land. White rapids
break the flow, a silver fish swims
Cold mist envelops me, but I’m burning.
I scan the water, hoping the surge
will cool me down.
A river runs down
my eyes. I sit in this landscape and
wait for my body to fight back
Once the river in my vein has reached its
destination, and started its good work.
It is better I cry here, alone.
Prepare my smiles
and promises of tomorrow.
the birds fly back to their nests.
I hear them call to their young –
Safe, for the night.
Susmita Bhattacharya is an award-winning author and creative writing tutor. Her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind (Parthian, 2015, BEE Books, India 2016) was long-listed for the Word to Screen Prize at the Mumbai Film Festival, 2018. Her short story collection, Table Manners (Dahlia Publishing, 2018) won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection (2019), was a finalist for the Hall & Woodhouse DLF Prize, 2019 and has been featured on BBC Radio 4. She lectures at Winchester University and facilitates writing workshops for young people with ArtfulScribe.
About this poem
I was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago. I lived in Devon at the time, very close to Dartmoor. After every chemo session, my husband would drive us to the moors for me to able to process my thoughts and emotions and for us to just have some time together before returning home to our children. I could feel the drugs rushing through my veins and as the weeks went by, my veins because purple and swollen - like rivers - flowing into every corner of my body. So similar to the landscape we found so much peace in.