A Kill Rate of 97%

I met a man
At the store
I asked him
How he was
He said
“I’m here
But I won’t be here
Next year.”

It was cancer
Of the pancreas
A cancer
With a
97% kill rate.

He looked healthy
Not like
Someone
Near death.

But he spoke
Like the dead man he is.
His words
Using more breath
His stare
Long and
Distant.

He was kind
Affable even
Sitting in the store
Awaiting death.

I thought of
What he might have been
As a child
Who his first love
Was
If he won
His first fight
When he lost
His virginity
If he’d ever
Left the country.

I wondered
If he had
Pancreatic cancer
In the list of
Ways to die
That we all keep
In our heads…

It made the store
Seem trite
With its cans
And bags
And boxes
Of food
Stacked high
Half of it
Destined
For the dump.

It made me feel
Like I was wasting my time
Buying hummus
And fruit.

Having
This short conversation
With a walking corpse,
Made me feel
Foolish
For the time I wasted.

Then his phone rang
And he left
After one last wave.

I’ll probably never see him again.

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