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
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.
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.