You Can Grow Less Beautiful
by Christine Longaker (in Facing Death and Finding Courage)

Your hair is falling out, and
you are not so beautiful.
Your eyes have dark shadows,
your body is bloated: arms covered with
    bruises and needlemarks;
    legs swollen and useless.
Your body and spirit
are weakened with toxic chemicals
urine smells like antibiotics,
        even the sweat
that bathes your whole body
in the early hours of morning
reeks of dicloxacillin and methotrexate.

You are nauseous all the time--
I am afraid to move on the bed
for fear of waking you
    to moan
and lean over the edge
vomiting into the bag.
I curl up fetally
        withdraw into my dreams
with a frightened back to you--
        I'm scared
        and I'm hiding
but I love you so much;
this truth doesn't change.

Years ago,
when I met you, as we were falling in love,
your beauty attracted me:
    long, golden-brown hair
    clear and peaceful green eyes
        high cheekcones and long smooth muscles
but you know
I fell in love with your soul
        the real essence of you
and this cannot grow less beautiful.

Sometimes these days
even your soul is cloudy
        but I still recognize you.

We may be frightened
        and hiding our sorrow
it may take a little longer
to acknowledge the truth,
        yet I would not want to be anywhere else:

I am here    with you
you can grow less beautiful to the world
    you are safe--
I will always love you.