Poetry Book

Malignant Muse: Poems of Cancer Overcome

 John Light

(21 pages, stapled, card cover).
ISBN 978 1 897968 42 0
US$10; US$11 air

In his introduction the author wrote:
Through the years 2000 to 2007 I wandered through the shadows of cancer valley. As I emerged from those shadows so have these poems. They are a consequence of my journey. Without it I could not have written them. It was an expedition I would never have chosen to make and yet it has enriched my life. I did not find suffering ennobling but it was informing. Eventually I became a survivor but I don't think I'll ever feel as young as I did before!

I am immensely grateful to all those - doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, my family and friends, fellow patients and all others who saw me through the dark. I dedicate this collection to them and to the memories of my mother Betty Light who won her own confrontation with cancer and my father William Light who didn't and to the National Health Service, to all those who work in it, all those who depend on it and all who support it. It is one of Britain's finest achievements.

Some poems from the book


The mole on my leg
had been with me
all my life.

Then after fifty years
it grew hard and ugly,
Jekyl face revealing
a malignant Hyde side.

"We must cut deep and wide,"
the surgeon said,
"to catch it all.
You will need a skin graft."

I awoke alive!
The melanoma gone,
my leg was patched
and covered up,
but the X-rays revealed
the shadow on my lung
was clearer still
and another
was showing on
my thyroid gland.
Were they benign,
or were they shadows
from the valley of death?

As I limped on crutches
from the ward,
I knew I would be back.

The End Begins

I have seen the hound of death,
The hound that cannot be outrun;
I have woken from my dream,
At last I know what can't be done.

The time is now:
The future's past.
I dare not move,
Fear runs too fast.

I watch the hound:
When will it bite?
It turns its head:
No, not tonight.

Soon the hound will come again;
I cannot flee, I cannot hide.
This short time is all I have;
The hound of death won't be denied.


Only two days ago
in the hospital bed
the future I'm now in
seemed unattainable,
impossibly distant.

Moored by drip lines and dragging drains,
isolated on suspicion
of resistant bacteria,
subverted by malignant cells
attacked by foreign terror cells
I was unable to escape
the feared infection of my cells,
the lonely confines of my cell.
By methicillin-resistant
staphylococcus aureus,
a new but invisible plague,
I was sundered from all others.

"The time will pass"
Ah yes, but when
will dis-ease ease,
stomach settle,
and urine flow
without a tube?

Will I be here
until they've used
all those labels
with my name on?

But that was then
and now is now
and now is all I have -
and memories of then,
of the craving for when.


Five years on
I feel ready to reckon
the balance.

I have lost
bits of leg
and lung and thyroid
to the claws
of the crab.

When last I saw
my hospital file
with contributions from
the Newcastle General,
Royal Victoria Infirmary,
Guy's, the Freeman Hospital
and Wansbeck General
it was three or four
inches thickness.

My leg and back are scarred without,
my chest is scarred within,
but I don't feel my mind is scarred.

In return I have gained so much,
for my life has been extended
and I have reached through many tests
an understanding of myself
and of my place in the Cosmos;
have wrested an abiding peace
from the close encroachment of death
and regained my joy in living.

My experiences gave me
a fuller realisation
of my dependence on others;
I felt a precious wonder at
the goodness and kindness of those
who saved my life.

I have renewed
my membership
of the human race.

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(Page amended 05 September 2017)

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