Wouldn’t You?

a poem by
JODI ANDREWS | Teacher + Poet 


“Wouldn’t You?” was inspired by some scary medical experiences. In 2014, I had a melanoma, and in 2016, I had enlarged lymph nodes in my abdomen, so my oncologist thought the nodes indicated my melanoma was back. If these lymph nodes contained melanoma, I would have been diagnosed with stage four melanoma, which is quite deadly. So, I had surgery in 2016 to extract some lymph nodes and test them. Thankfully, they did not contain melanoma, but this experience really rattled me.
I wrote a lot of poetry about this surgery and experience over the next couple of months, but this poem I didn’t write until about 6 months after surgery. I had been mulling this idea around in my head: shouldn’t I appreciate life so much more? Shouldn’t I be a new person now that I’d gone through this much-too-real experience? How could I possibly complain about anything? I wasn’t going through cancer treatment. I was alive. But instead of feeling more alive, I felt more afraid of the possibilities of what can go wrong with the body. I remember writing this poem in my bedroom with the window open, and I remember rereading it and crying because it was one of those poems that was a long time coming. So, these words are really important to me. This cycle of fear and confidence in the body is endless, and this poem helped put words to this cycle for me.

IF you think you might be dying and then
you aren’t, wouldn’t you sing birds into
windows to help you fold sheets,
and tie bows into flowy, satin dresses?
Wouldn’t you sweep the floor with joy, lug
laundry up three flights of stairs to a machine
that half works with a smile on your face?
Wouldn’t you scrub dishes to the beat
of your favorite song? Pay your bills
while dancing? Your heart beating, skin feeling.
Wouldn’t you run outside til you’re out of breath?
Stay up late and watch the stars just to feel tiny?

Instead, I crawled into myself
like a turtle scared for its soft body.

Just the other day I felt light again—laughing
til I couldn’t breathe, tickling my husband while
he tickled back. I trusted my body. Tumbled
back handsprings on a four-inch beam.
Landed. Arms in the air, smiling.

Photograph by Jon Eric Marababol