how you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try,
walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere,
arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;
each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath.
Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings
of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road
goes on forever. Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love
is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet.
A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon,
so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole
thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more.

Barbara Crooker | More, 2010

JO Barrios | Flores, 2020

97 | 100


In broad daylight, aloud, he says like Susan Sontag, who wrote on this a beautiful and worthy essay, The Illness as a metaphor: the psychic explanation of cancer is both a myth without scientific foundation and a villainy moral, because it makes the sick feel guilty. This is the official thesis, the Party line. In the dark, however, he says what Fritz Zorn or Pierre Cazenave say: that his cancer was not a foreign aggressor but a part of him, an intimate enemy and perhaps not even an enemy. The first way of thinking is rational, the second is magic. We can argue that becoming an adult, which is supposed to help psychoanalysis, is giving up magical thinking for rational thinking, but we can also argue that nothing should be abandoned, that what is true on one level of the mind is not true on the other, and that one must live on all the levels, from the cellar to the attic. I feel like that’s what Etienne is doing.

Le Livre de Pierre is a long interview by Louise Lambrichs with Pierre Cazenave, a psychologist who suffered from cancer for fifteen years and died of it before the book came out. He described himself not as “having cancer” but as “being cancerous.” “When I learned of my cancer,” he says, it seemed “that I had always had it. It was my identity.” Psychoanalyst and “cancerous,” he became a psychoanalyst for “the cancerous,” grounding his approach in his intuitive understanding that “the worst suffering is the one you cannot share. And a cancer patient usually feels that suffering twice over. Because she cannot share the anguish of her sickness with those around her and because beneath this pain lies another, more ancient one, dating back to childhood, and it, too, has never been shared, never been seen. And that is the worst of fates: never to have been seen, never to have been acknowledged.”

This other suffering, says Cazenave, is what he aspires to cure, by leading his patients to see and recognize it for what it is and thereby escape its torment. His patients will still die, but between Molière, who mocked doctors who “cured” their victims to death, and the great English psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, who asked God for the blessing of dying completely alive, Cazenave focuses on people who approach their cancer not as the random visitation of catastrophe but as a truth that concerns them intimately, an obscure consequence of their own history, the ultimate expression of their unhappiness and dismay as they deal with life.

Cazenave is speaking of himself as well when he says that in such patients something has gone wrong in the developmental stage of primary narcissism, leaving a profound flaw in the oldest core of the personality. This means that there are two kinds of people: those thus damaged, who often dream about falling. into a void, and everyone else – all those who have been well supported by a “holding environment” and can thus stand and live confidently on solid ground. The damaged ones, though, will suffer all their lives from vertigo and anguish, from a sense of not really existing. The infantile malformation may persist a long time in the adult as a kind of background noise, a depression – unrecognized even y its victim –  that will one day become malignant.  Such patients, informed they have cancer, are not surprised, for they somehow recognize the malignancy, knowing that it was themselves. All their lives, they have feared something that has in fact already happened. Cazenave believes that in patients damaged by this childhood malformation of the self (and who have of course forgotten it), the memory pf the wound awakens as the news of their mortal illness, as the fresh disaster reactivates the old one, causing an intolerable psychic distress whose specific origin they do not yet fully understand.




. . . there will be nothing left to lose . . . .





91 | 100


All my life, I have accompanied my parents to the doctor. I am their interpreter and advocate. They have gone to the emergency room only once, being pretty good about preventative healthcare and making regular appointments at the local community health centre that sees low-income people on a sliding scale. For years, the chief c=doctor there was an Indian man who didn’t speak great English and didn’t speak great Spanish but who spoke with patients of all nationalities and languages without an interpreter anyway.  He didn’t like me and I didn’t like him. when my mom was in her forties she found a lump in her breast, and he explained to me why ordering mammograms for women in their forties was a waste of resources, especially when the patient was uninsured and insurance couldn’t pay for it, if you looked at the number of lives early detection of breast cancer saved. I don’t think doctors are supposed to worry about the bottom line, I tell him. Didn’t you take an oath? I am maybe eighteen. Aren’t you smart, he says. That’s her! She goes to Harvard, my mom says. That’s right, motherfucker. I go to school in Boston. Well, not Boston. Cambridge. Just a little school in Cambridge. One day I’ll make so much money that I’ll pay for my mom’s mammogram in cash., in crisp one-dollar bills, like a muhfuckng kingpin. I’ll buy this clinic and turn it into a museum for myself, in honor of me. I can hang up your children diplomas for a special exhibition on children of doctors who go to state schools, you cheap-ass motherfucker. I will ruin you.

She has a history of breast cancer in her family, is what I actually say.

A lie.

I’d appreciate it if you ordered one.

I personally subscribe to Dr. King’s definition of an unjust law as being ‘out of harmony with the moral law.’ And the higher moral law here is that people have a human right to move, to change location, if they experience hunger, poverty, violence, or lack of opportunity, especially if that climate in their home countries is created by the United States, as is the case with most third world countries from which people migrate. Ain’t that ’bout a bitch.

I sometimes fantasize about my parents divorcing. It’d devastate my brother but that’s why I pay for his therapy. I’d be relieved. I’ve looked for houses in Havana where my dad wants to “retire” and I can maybe afford that, if I sell a book and TV shows every few years, and keep my kidneys healthy and available. I imagine my mom would live with my brother, who will remain a Jehovah’s Witness, like our parents, and marry someone young and nice and equally interested in having two biological children. my brother sure does love my mother, in a whole, pure, white-woman-at-a-farmer’s-market kind of way, but that;’s because my mom didn’t leave him in Ecuador before he could speak, so there aren’t many things unsaid between them.

What I saw in Flint was a microcosm of the way the government treats the undocumented everywhere, making the conditions in this country as deadly and toxic and inhumane as possible so that we will self-deport. What I saw in Flint was what I had seen everywhere else, what I had felt in my own poisoned blood and bones. Being killed softly, silently, and with impunity.

Essential reading and listening! Listen to Karla on Code Switch

JO Barrios | Fernando, 2016