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Famous Cancer Poems by Famous Poets

These are examples of famous Cancer poems written by some of the greatest and most-well-known modern and classical poets. PoetrySoup is a great educational poetry resource of famous cancer poems. These examples illustrate what a famous cancer poem looks like and its form, scheme, or style (where appropriate).

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by Bradstreet, Anne
...w the tedious day so long;
But when thou northward to me shalt return,
I wish my Sun may never set, but burn
Within the Cancer of my glowing breast,
The welcome house of him my dearest guest.
Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence,
Till nature's sad decree shall call thee hence;
Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,
I here, thou there, yet both but one....Read More

by Kizer, Carolyn
...orning star;
wrote the ERA
found the right man at last, a sensitive artist;
flying too high

not to crash. When the cancer caught you
you went on talk shows to say you had no fear
or faith.
In Baltimore we joked on your bed as you turned into
a witty wraith.

When you died I cleaned out your bureau drawers:
your usual disorder; an assortment of gorgeous wigs
and prosthetic breasts
tossed in garbage bags, to spare your gentle spouse.
Then the bequests

you had ...Read More

by Whitman, Walt
...peace—not war;)
In many a smiling mask death shall approach, beguiling thee—thou in disease shalt

The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy breasts, seeking to strike
 deep within; 
Consumption of the worst—moral consumption—shall rouge thy face with hectic: 
But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them all, 
Whatever they are to-day, and whatever through time they may be,
They each and all shall lift, and pass away, a...Read More

by Hikmet, Nazim
...y coffee grounds read
my writings are published in thirty or forty languages
 in my Turkey in my Turkish they're banned
cancer hasn't caught up with me yet
and nothing says it will
I'll never be a prime minister or anything like that
and I wouldn't want such a life
nor did I go to war
or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night
and I never had to take to the road under diving planes
but I fell in love at almost sixty
in short comrades
even if today in Berlin I'm cro...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
The smile of my seventh year,
caught here in the painted photograph.

It's peeling now, age has got it,
a kind of cancer of the background
and also in the assorted features.
It's like a rotten flag
or a vegetable from the refrigerator,
pocked with mold.
I am aging without sound,
into darkness, darkness.

who are you?

I open the vein
and my blood rings like roller skates.
I open the mouth
and my teeth are an angry army.
I open the eyes
and they...Read More

by Larkin, Philip

Or after dark will dubious women come
To make their children touvh a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games in riddles seemingly at random;
But superstition like belief must die 
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass weedy pavement brambles butress sky.

A shape less recognisable each week 
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will b...Read More

by Sexton, Anne

I accept you,
you come with the dead who people my dreams,
who walk all over my desk
(as in Mother, cancer blossoming on her
Best & Co. ****--
waltzing with her tissue paper ghost)
the dead, who give sweets to the diabetic in me,
who give bolts to the seizure of roses
that sometimes fly in and out of me.
I accept you, demon.
I will not cover your mouth.
If it be man I love, apple laden and foul
or if it be woman I love, si...Read More

by Matthews, William
I sat beside her bed with hot-and-sour
soup and heard an intern congratulate
her on her new diagnosis: a children's
cancer (doesn't that possessive break
your heart?) had possessed her. I couldn't stop
personifying it. Devious, dour,
it had a clouded heart, like Iago's.
It loved disguise. It was a garrison
in a captured city, a bad horror film
(The Blob), a stowaway, an inside job.
If I could make it be like something else,
I wouldn't have to think of ...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
...They work with herbs
and penicillin
They work with gentleness
and the scalpel.
They dig out the cancer,
close an incision
and say a prayer
to the poverty of the skin.
They are not Gods
though they would like to be;
they are only a human
trying to fix up a human.
Many humans die.
They die like the tender,
palpitating berries
in November.
But all along the doctors remember:
First do no harm.
They would kiss if it would heal.
It wo...Read More

by Corso, Gregory
...burning sword St. George a lance David a sling
 Bomb you are as cruel as man makes you and you're no crueller than cancer
 All Man hates you they'd rather die by car-crash lightning drowning
Falling off a roof electric-chair heart-attack old age old age O Bomb
 They'd rather die by anything but you Death's finger is free-lance
 Not up to man whether you boom or not Death has long since distributed its
 categorical blue I sing thee Bomb Death's extravagance Death's jubile...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
...out wars 
life is dangerous. 
Boats spring leaks. 
Cigarettes explode. 
The snow could be radioactive. 
Cancer could ooze out of the radio. 
Who knows? 
Ms. Dog stands on the shore 
and the sea keeps rocking in 
and she wants to talk to God. 

Why talk to God? 

It's better than playing bridge. 


Learning to talk is a complex business. 
My daughter's first word was utta, 
meaning button. 
Before there are words...Read More

by Tebb, Barry
...father murdered your mother”

As Auntie Margaret said,

Should a witness

Need indicting.

Your mother’s growing cancer went diagnosed, but unremarked

Until the final days

She was too busy auxiliary nursing

Or working in the Lakeside Caf?.

It was her wages that put bread and jam

And baked beans into your stomachs.

Her final hospitalisation

Was the arena for your father’s last rage

Her fare interfering with the night’s drinking;

He fought in the Bur...Read More

by Marvell, Andrew
...d fawns that from the womb abortive fled; 
Not unprovoked, she tries forbidden arts, 
But in her soft breast love's hid cancer smarts, 
While she resoloves, at once, Sidney's disgrace 
And her self scorned for emulous Denham's face, 
And nightly hears the hated guards, away 
Galloping with the Duke to other prey. 

Paint Castlemaine in colours that will hold 
(Her, not her picture, for she now grows old): 
She through her lackey's drawers, as he ran, 
Discerned love's cau...Read More

by Betjeman, John
...orries past:
What misery will this year bring
Now spring is in the air at last?
For, sure as blackthorn bursts to snow,
Cancer in some of us will grow,
The tasteful crematorium door
Shuts out for some the furnace roar;
But church-bells open on the blast
Our loneliness, so long and vast....Read More

by Whitman, Walt
Do you see that lost character?—Do you see decay, consumption, rum-drinking, dropsy,
 fever, mortal cancer or inflammation?
Do you see death, and the approach of death?...Read More

by Hacker, Marilyn
...s to live.
And I happened
to open up The Nation to that bad
news which I otherwise might not have known
(not breast cancer: cancer of the brain).
Words take the absent friend away again.
Alone, I think, she called, alone, upon
her courage, tried in ways she'd not have wished
by pain and fear: her courage, extinguished.

The pain and fear some courage extinguished
at disaster's denouement come back
daily, banal: is that brownish-black
mole the next chapter? Was...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
...lows and stones of the breakwater.
And though your daisies are an unwanted death,
I wade through the smell of their cancer
and recognize the prognosis,
its cartful of loss--

I say now,
you gave what you could.
It was quite a ferris wheel to spin on!
and the dead city of my marriage
seems less important
than the fact that the daisies came weekly,
over and over,
likes kisses that can't stop themselves.

There sit two deaths on November 5th, 1973.
Let one be for...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
...u. Time, that rearranger
of estates, equips
me with your garments, but not with grief.

This winter when
cancer began its ugliness
I grieved with you each day
for three months
and found you in your private nook
of the medicinal palace
for New England Women
and never once
forgot how long it took.
I read to you
from The New Yorker, ate suppers
you wouldn't eat, fussed
with your flowers,
joked with your nurses, as if I
were the balm among lepers,
as if I could...Read More

by Sexton, Anne
...August you were two, by I timed my days with doubt.
On the first of September she looked at me
and said I gave her cancer.
They carved her sweet hills out
and still I couldn't answer.


That winter she came
part way back
from her sterile suite
of doctors, the seasick
cruise of the X-ray,
the cells' arithmetic
gone wild. Surgery incomplete,
the fat arm, the prognosis poor, I heard
them say.

During the sea blizzards
she had here
own portrait painted...Read More

by Tebb, Barry
...with the white telephone that never rang

Next to the Christian Science Church my sad grandmother trekked to with

Her cancer-ridden spine. It was doomed from the start. The previous

Tenants had ended in divorce. If the certain salesman and his gleaming

Bride had failed to make it, how could we? Our moves from Huddersfield

And back became more frantic and our peace more fragile.

You always felt lonely in the countryside, while I longed in Leeds

For ope...Read More

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