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About this Poem 

“‘Cachexia’ is a poem Max Ritvo wrote during the late stages of his nine-year fight with cancer (Ewing’s sarcoma). Cachexia is known more commonly as  ‘“wasting of the body’” and is present in people with AIDS, cancer, and other diseases. Max noticed the shifts in his appetite and body despite his efforts to eat and maintain nutritional status. Max wrote 'Cachexia' just a few months before he died. It informs the reader about the inner world of a terminally ill young man.”
—Ariella Riva Ritvo

Cachexia

Today I woke up in my body
and wasn’t that body anymore.

It’s more like my dog—
for the most part obedient,
warming to me
when I slip it goldfish or toast,

but it sheds.
Can’t get past a simple sit,
stay, turn over. House-trained, but not entirely.

This doesn’t mean it’s time to say goodbye.

I’ve realized the estrangement
is temporary, and for my own good:

My body’s work to break the world
into bricks and sticks
has turned inward.

As all the doors in the world
grow heavy
a big white bed is being put up in my heart.

Copyright © 2017 by Max Ritvo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Max Ritvo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Max Ritvo

Max Ritvo

Max Ritvo's debut poetry collection, Four Reincarnations, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2016.

by this poet

poem

I touch my palms to the floor
and granite rhinos surge up my arms
and lock in my shoulders.
Water flecks on my back
and my head is shaved
by bladed cream.

But then my time in my body is up
and it’s time for my mind:
It seeks wisdom
and the rhinos fall into a well,

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