Every time I heard

the threatening rants

of Hitler and Mussolini

on our Philco Baby Grand,

I had the same nightmare:

They were coming after me.

If that wasn’t bad enough,

I kept going to funerals

of grandparents, aunts,

uncles, and cousins.

Cancer was in the air.

Bewildered by the word,

I had no idea what cancer

could possibly mean.

All I knew it was something

that could kill you.

I must avoid it in any way I could.

Every weekend we drove

in my father’s Model-A Ford

to grandparents in Brownsville.

I figured the glow of headlights

from oncoming cars might

give me cancer.

I never told anyone why I kept my eyes

tightly scrunched shut on the drive home.

When I overheard my uncle

brag about his son marrying

a virgin, I couldn’t wait to meet

the bride who I assumed

would be a fairy-godmother

who might grant me my every wish.