Psychogeographic Map of the Chemo Lounge {{Santa Cruz, California}}

In the chemo lounge, 
my husband would bring me anti-oxidant smoothies—
and then I’d shoo him away. 

One time he forgot to pit the dates
so I spit seed fragments into a napkin
in front of my neighbor Jerry

who was in there with terminal
brain cancer. Jerry—
who’d I’d once seen

sway to Al Green 
at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival.
Beside him a 19-year-old girl

asleep with a needle in her arm.
Her red hair a blaze of curls,
like a cyclamen yet to lose its petals. 

The woman sitting across from me said: 
“I’ve lost my hair three times already.”
And unfurled the years of indignity she’d suffered,

while the pregnant oncology nurse— 
who’d married a surfer,
and who wore a jade gecko pendant 

dangling on a gold chain—
mumbled “yes” and “ahh” as the woman continued
to describe a torrent of treatments I hear

in the church bells outside my window today,
four years later, 
and in another country.

Maria Garcia Teutsch

3 Questions

What was your process for creating this work?

I have been focusing on writing psychogeographic maps for the last couple of years: both real and imagined. The hardest part about going through chemotherapy, for me at least, was witnessing the suffering of others. I did in fact see my neighbor in there, we both knew his cancer was terminal and I wanted to honor him. He has since passed away.

What is the significance of the form you chose?

I like psychogeographia because it links the mind with the foot and the earth. There's a physicality to it. This poem is particular in the series because I am in one spot, the chemo lounge, but for hours and hours, for months and months.

What is the significance of this work to you?

I hope that it might help others who have gone through, or are going through, treatment for cancer. I hope it helps them to know they are not an experiment, and that their dignity matters to me. I should add I've been cancer free for over 4 years now. Fuck cancer.

Maria Garcia Teutsch is an award-winning American poet living in Berlin, Germany. She has forthcoming publications in the anthology, The Experiment will be Unbound, and the literary journals diSONARE, and Magdalena. Her latest collection is the chapbook, The Swallows of America, published by Dancing Girl Press, Fall 2021.

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