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On page 159 of my biology textbook, it reads,
“...cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells”
as though that could explain everything,
and I thought it did for a time.

But my textbook never warned me
that his skin would pale
to a point where I could see
the blue freight trains
carrying eighteen pills
throughout his frail body.

My textbook never warned me
that his watery irises would freeze over,
that he would hurl insults like knives,
and that he would clench his jaw
as tightly as his fist clenched his wine glass
because the only person to blame is himself,
and he can’t swallow that as easily
as he can the olives in his martinis.

And my textbook never warned me
that it would be this difficult to breathe
because of my acute awareness
that his breaths are limited,
and that there would be nothing I could do
but soldier on searching for that silver lining
clinging to these foreboding thunderheads.
AT LAST THIS BEAST IS CONQUERED!

Just sent the e-mail to enter this in a contest for a $300 scholarship! The prompt was: "Descriptive Poem/Journal entry 500 word limit expressing challenges faced such as internal struggle, loss, strife, grief. After exactly eight drafts, I have made it as perfect as it can be. Of course, with the help of English teachers and some friends of mine who edited it and gave me some feedback. I would still love some feedback on this because I can always get better!

(And for those concerned, my grandfather is not dead, and he is slowly recovering from a liver transplant. This is merely a reflection on the emotions and the pain my family and I were going through. We are all okay!)

Word Count: 165

:new: Daily Literature Deviation for December 22, 2013! Thank you!

:new: Changed the last lines based on some feedback I've been getting!
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:iconbeyond-an-anomaly:
This poem was beautiful. I really adored the comparison between what a textbook can tell you about a life-threatening disease versus actually seeing first-hand what the disease can do to someone.

I will say that part of the third stanza threw me off a little bit.

"...that he would hurl insults like knives..." makes me wonder what exactly provokes the insulting. Perhaps it was his bitterness from suffering that made him sound so cold, but perhaps that could be explained just a little bit more...

Also,

"as tightly as his fist clenched his wine glass..." and, "as he can the olives in his martinis..."

Does this mean he drinks often? However, I adored the line before this one: "and he can't swallow that as easily...as he can the olives in his martinis."

I suppose that it could have been a little better implied that he drank a lot or enjoyed drinking...but I don't know. It doesn't take anything away from the poem, but I rather feel it could add more to the already vivid imagery and back-story in this piece.

The description of the man was gorgeous. "Blue freight trains," is a genius comparison to just, "veins." Very nice similes, metaphors, and descriptions you have going on here.

It was a powerful poem, filled with much emotion, and I really loved the imagery. Perhaps one or two more things could have been added to, but ah, it's still wonderful.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Well done! :D

-BAA
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
21 out of 21 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconmormonbookworm:
I love the feeling of the piece, and the emotions that the words carry.
My sister recently finish a round of therapy for cancer, and so I know the feelings of fear, even when you're sure (as sure as you can be,) that they're okay.
Just a small problem, and it's a personal taste. I wish this had a better flow to it. (I like poems flow-ier. But I can see how choppiness adds to the raw feelings of it all.
I must ask though, did you he get a liver transplant because of cancer? (Just wondering, as it kind of confuses me.)
I'm rating the originality lower because cancer seems to be a relatively popular subject lately. (People have told me I'm quite lenient with ratings. I see no reason to be harsh.)
Tl:dr this is a brilliant piece! I find it hardest to write things that are nonfiction and close to me.
MBW
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
7 out of 7 deviants thought this was fair.

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

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:iconskytchek:
skytchek Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014
THIS IS AMAZING.
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT.catching love 
I can really tell that you worked hard on it, and this came out amazing.
Just ammmaaazing.
I'd really love it if you looked at my work.
You  might be busy,
but it would mean the world to me.
thank youuuu!:happy: 
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :hug: :heart:

I'll go check it out :)
Reply
:iconindependentsoul97:
IndependentSoul97 Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014
Beautiful work!  The middle two stanzas were my favorite.  I love your word choice :)  Did you win the scholarship?
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :hug:

Haha, that's a funny story, actually. The scholarship wasn't offered through a real scholarship program; it was offered through a woman who wanted to offer money because of her son or something. She seemed excited to set up a meet-up with the winners at a local Starbucks, but my school wasn't being compliant with the whole idea of me going off-capus with a random lady. I emailed her a countless number of time about the results, but she seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. :shrug: A disappointment for sure, but I wrote a really awesome poem because of her!
Reply
:iconindependentsoul97:
IndependentSoul97 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2014
That's a shame that she never followed up :(  but you're right!  You did write a really awesome poem :D
Reply
:iconjetscreamer:
JetScreamer Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This is absolutely gorgeous and heart breaking... 
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much :huggle:
Reply
:iconjetscreamer:
JetScreamer Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome! <3
Reply
:iconriannoodlton:
RianNoodlton Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014
This is..amazing. I just finished biology in school, so it's just...sad.
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I finished my course too, and it was terrible. I'm glad you enjoyed my poem!
Reply
:iconriannoodlton:
RianNoodlton Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014
I hated the kids in my class, not the class. My best friend was in my bio class and it's the only class we had together. It was an easy class... mostly memorization and actual studying
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I loved the people in it, hated teh teacher and his methods. We did a lot of bookwork and tests. No fun allowed.
Reply
:iconarwynandcole:
ArwynandCole Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Holy cow.  Blown away...I think I've fainted. 
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner May 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Aw, thank you!
Reply
:iconaurora66:
Aurora66 Featured By Owner May 14, 2014
This is amazing. It reminds me of how I felt when my grandmother got sick, though she didn't have cancer. I think it really shows that this is based on actual experience ... great work!!
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner May 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much! I'm sorry to have drawn out hunhapy memories or emotions, but I'm glad you liked my poem!
Reply
:iconneonsquiggle:
neonsquiggle Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Lovely words, and so powerful. 
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much!
Reply
:iconc-a-harland:
C-A-Harland Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Student Writer
This is beautifully descriptive and yet so cold at the same time. Absolutely wonderful.
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much!
Reply
:iconazurenebulae:
AzureNebulae Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I like how the textbook has been presented as useless in this situation - of course it is. But that itself is an interesting contradiction. I'm not sure if your teachers are the same, but sometimes mine treat textbooks as if they are Bibles. It is a very emotional poem, and I'm sure you have a really good chance in that competition. Good luck (not that you need it)! :aww: <3
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I have had teachers like that. My biology teacher isn't exactly like that, all though we do do a lot of textbook work. Thank you so much!
Reply
:iconazurenebulae:
AzureNebulae Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I see :) you're welcome <3
Reply
:icontheydontlikeitupem:
TheyDontLikeItUpEm Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Quality stuff. Thanks for posting it.
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much for reading and enjoying it!
Reply
:iconserenecyrene:
SereneCyrene Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Student General Artist
This is so well written. (: Great work. 
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much!
Reply
:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014  Student Writer
Whoa, how did I miss this the first time around? This is so painful but incredibly well written and intriguing. I hope you win your scholarship! :tighthug:
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Wow, thank you so much!
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:iconlittleblueraccoon:
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014  Student Writer
You're welcome! :giggle:
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:iconslickslander:
SlickSlander Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Professional General Artist
:clap:
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
:bow:
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:iconguineveretogwen:
GuinevereToGwen Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Student Writer
Sighs LOVE.
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the help!
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:iconguineveretogwen:
GuinevereToGwen Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Student Writer
Of course! :D
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:iconxtwitterbug:
xTwitterBug Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

This piece...It's so moving.

Honestly, there's no words to describe the amount of pain I feel for this, and ironically, I do not even know anyone who is suffering from any sort of illness, let alone cancer.

I pray that your grandfather is okay, and I hope you get that $300 scholarship!

Hannah, you're truly a poet, but I'm sure you already knew that ;P

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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much! It's difficult to write poems about situations like this, let alone make the other person (whomay have no expereince here) feel the emotions you do. I'm so glad I achieved my goal!

Thanks again! :heart:
Reply
:iconbelcanto2:
belcanto2 Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014
You mention this poem as particularly important to you so decided to add suggestions on it for BeACritic, but find I ran out of time!  As usual.  Given all the accolades received, my thoughts may be entirely unwelcome, but I'm using a technique I learned on a pretty tough crit site. This same method, employed by other poets there, was very helpful to me in rethinking and reworking my own poems.  So here goes:

Like this. A very good concept but its potentially strong emotional impact feels lessened by all the drama of repetition.  As reader, also wanted this to be a little more personal in tone; somewhat angry with the textbook and somewhat more anguished by the anticipated loss. That's down to careful word choice throughout, I think. Any changes will affect line breaks and rhythm as well, so all would have to be carefully considered.

Suggested edit. Use any or disregard whole.  Your poem!  

[ ] suggested cut
( ) suggested addition


To My Biology Textbook
“...cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells” (title of text) p.159 make this a sub heading to your title?
[it reads,
and I thought it did for a time.]

As though that could explain everything.  Maybe start the poem here, for immediate effect
[But my textbook] (You?) never warned me - title is addressing textbook - make content a conversation with the book ?
that his skin would pale
to a point where I could see
the blue freight trains
carrying eighteen pills
throughout his frail body[.] (,) Like this whole stanza. Strong.

[My textbook] never  (mentioned?) [warned me]
that his watery irises would freeze over[,]
[that he would] (as he) hurl(ed) insults like knives,
[that he would] clench(ing) his jaw
as tightly as his fist clenched his wine glass(,)
[because] the only person to blame(,) [is] himself[,] (.)
[a](A)nd he can’t swallow that as easily
as he can the olives in his martinis.  Very effective image and passage

[And my textbook] insert a negative here about the textbook? (Cold and clinical, you don't ?) [warned me] (spell out how ?)
[that][this] difficult it would be (for me?) to breathe
because of my [acute] (painful? or a similar word in meaning which repeats the b sound?) awareness
that his breaths are limited[,](.)
[and t] (T)hat there would be nothing I could do(.)  Perhaps end poem here?
[but soldier on, searching for that silver lining,
because there has to be one somewhere]  Cliched ending.  For me, dilutes power of what is being said.
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the critique! It really opened my eyes up to certain aspects of this poem!
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:iconbelcanto2:
belcanto2 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014
As you can probably tell, hadn't read your update before I pasted my suggestions on here!  But glad the style of crit I chose to use didn't offend!  Hope you're awarded that scholarship! Hug 
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Don't worry about it! It was only grammar things. Thank you!
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:iconbraxton-t-rutledge:
Braxton-T-Rutledge Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2014

 

 

Consider re titling. In two lines you mention the textbook and I feel that is cumbersome. The repetition of "my textbook never warned me" becomes too predictable, maybe move the repeteated phrase around a bit more. I like the repetition, however, so I would definitely not suggest removing it.

a few spots there seem to be too many words that aren't doing enough. Example : "his skin would pale

I could see the blue

freight trains and their

eighteen pills hauled through his body"

 

it isn't a big change, but it reads tighter to me.

 

I would also not use cancer. Cancer gets a lot of attention in the mediaalready, and often it feels too demogougic and causes me to wonder if it is being used to force a reader to think about bald chemo patients wasting away. I am sure you could find an entry about liver failure that is just as dry and seemingly clean cut.

 

generally I like what you are going for, finding a source like a textbook that dehumanized an incredibly human event or experience, but I feel like I've seen a good number of poems that approach the subject from this angle. That doesn't mean it isn't strong, but it does mean you have to do everything you can to personalize it, make it unique to you and your experience.

 

Good effort.

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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You find the repition cumbersome, but you still like it? I fear I don't understand what you're trying to say here. Repetition is supposed to be predictable, that's why it's repeated. It creates a rhythm. That's also the reason why I added those extra words. They tie the phrases together and create a flow, thus creating rhythm.

Did you seriously tell me not to use cancer in my poem about cancer? And that it isn't personal and unique to my experience with it? Dude. Dude.
Reply
:iconbraxton-t-rutledge:
Braxton-T-Rutledge Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2014

Repetition is good. Execution was what I questioned. Putting the phrases in the same place created a plodding sound, not an interesting one. My suggestion to try placing the repeating line in different spots, maybe a second line or perhaps using a break to be more descriptive, stands. Those extra words create rythmn at the expense of impact, at least to me.

and yes, I told you to change cancer to something else that hasn't been bludgeoned into me by writers and movies and tv shows etc. Or to use more evocative or unique descriptions so that the poem seperates itself from the multitude. That is exactly what I said.

I have a knee jerk reaction to getting told something I'm really proud of still has a long way to go. I get defensive and assume the other person is an idiot. Sometimes I am right and the other person is just flat out wrong but most of the time I'm incorrect. In this case my comments might be way off and you can toss them. That's up to you. You signed up for critiques, I offered one free of malice and with good intent. I hope you win the contest you entered.

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:iconreireiserenade:
ReiReiSerenade Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This piece packs a powerful punch of emotion, imagery, description, and creativity. Cancer seems to be everywhere; I've read heartbreaking short stories and books written about it, but this is the first piece about it that has actually broken my heart. Everything from the way you took the prompt to the style and flow of the poem is just so original, inspiring, and genuine. You made me feel the tragedy, the struggle, and grief as if I were in your shoes. You made me relive the experience, and I can tell that this piece is going to stick with me.

"My textbook never warned me
that his watery irises would freeze over,
that he would hurl insults like knives,
and that he would clench his jaw
as tightly as his fist clenched his wine glass
because the only person to blame is himself,
and he can’t swallow that as easily
as he can the olives in his martinis."

I love the creative metaphor, I love the description, is there anything I don't love about it? The only criticism that I can give it that I would have liked for you to have elaborated on certain lines to make some things a little more apparent, although a little vagueness is good. Besides that, I think you have written something that you should be very proud of. :clap: :heart: Great job!
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
That was exactly what I was striving to do! I have read many a poem where I have had my heart ripped out, still beating, and I wanted to write something powerful like that for this prompt. Success!

What specifically can I be more clear on?

Thanks!
Reply
:iconreireiserenade:
ReiReiSerenade Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I suppose that I just would've liked for you to have gone into a little more depth on the character with cancer, like maybe about his past. The lines "his watery irises would freeze over,
that he would hurl insults like knives,
and that he would clench his jaw
as tightly as his fist clenched his wine glass
because the only person to blame is himself,
and he can’t swallow that as easily
as he can the olives in his martinis" implies that he is a violent drinker, and I guess I would've liked to read more about his emotions and how he personally reacted to the disease, or how he has changed because of it in more depth, but I still love what you have done with this piece, and the description and imagery is gorgeous :heart:
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:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Alright! Thanks again!
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:iconthetonythethe:
thetonythethe Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2014  Professional General Artist
this is hella good tho
Reply
:iconsaltwaterlungs:
saltwaterlungs Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much!
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