A Selection of Poems from Scholar Michael Mahin

January 25, 2022 | by Michael Mahin

A Selection of Poems from Scholar Michael Mahin

Michael Mahin

Michael Mahin is a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor. He was diagnosed in October of 2017 and finished treatment in April of 2018. He recently celebrated his 3-year anniversary of being cancer-free. Michael developed his own self-publishing press in 2021, entitled Pumpkin Boy Press, and plans to publish his first book of poetry within the year, exploring his experiences in and out of cancer treatment. More information about Michael, including his upcoming poetry book, can be found at https://pumpkinboypress.weebly.com/ or via Instagram: @pumpkinboypress.


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Photo credit: Michael Mahin

– first, some small things – 

from the infusion chair

some small things flash in tight bursts 

(like a silent storm of pummeling fists): 


|| the glimmer of water through careening car windows || 

|| the stiff autumn leaves we once swallowed as children || 

|| or my grandmother’s hands like puckered crêpe paper || 


and in the wake of remembering, 

left wondering how soon i’ll see 

these small and sacred things


– what would you take – 

if all of it was over // all-of-a-sudden 

the question // of what could you carry

(as you trace // the pallid pink of the port 

scar, scarred // just below your collarbone)

it isn’t exactly // easy to answer 

people will tell you simply // not to go there 

but it is, in some sense // a logistical question 

you put books // in boxes 

you touch keepsakes // that make you feel nothing 

you think of your sister // laughing

you hear the words // of women 

who sang you // into existence

a stevie nicks record // that glorious sound


you hear // your mother’s voice 

calling you up // over the hill, again

back to this world // that you almost 


– a litany of what-ifs –

what if // the worst thing already happened? 

what if // you survived it? 

what if // the clouds kept rushing in, anyway? 

what if // you fought them? 

what if // you didn’t know the way forward? 

what if // there was so much more brokenness to come? 

what if // the joy was hard to predict? 

what if // the pain felt neon, ever-present? 

what if // you were lazy in its wake? 

what if // you were gluttonous in its wake? 

what if // you were selfish and sad? 

what if // you had to be? 

what if // you let it go on too long? 

what if // one day you decided to stop? 

what if // you were cured of the cancer, 

                    but not of the everything else that came after? 

what if // the worst thing wasn’t an excuse anymore?

what if // you forgave your life? 

what if // you forgave your body? 

what if // you forgave yourself, for not healing sooner, stronger,

                    better, faster? 

what if // you made a change, just to remind yourself that you

                    were alive? 

what if // this change was a mistake? 

what if // the mistake was necessary? 

what if // you stopped being nostalgic for every other period

                    in your life? 

what if // you chose to love this one

what if // you loved the days that you didn’t love at all? 

what if // you survived the worst thing and still felt empty and


what if // the pointlessness was the point? 

what if // the hurting was random and impersonal? 

what if // you made the healing pointed and personal? 

what if // the sun always looked somewhat strange


what if // you learned to love it, anyway? 

what if // you started today

– joy – 


i wanted to write about joy 

something uncomplicated

something unmarred by

men that didn’t want me 

or the cut of cancer


really, i didn’t want to 

write a sad song, again


sometimes it feels like 

all i’m ever good at: 

rewinding old wounds 


and yet, here i am, on a

sunny sunday afternoon 

in the last remaining days 

in the month of march 


and there’s this certain song 

this breeze tickling my toes 

this pale, eggshell blue sky

and the clouds drifting by 


and this feeling in the air, 

even if it’s only for today,

shit, like i’m gonna be okay. 


gotta go. 

putting the pen down. 

letting the light in. 

letting my life in.