by Thuy Can

I walk by a man glowing yellow
his eyes like neon lights
his abdomen swollen as if gravid
He will develop esophageal varices
that will lead to countless hospital visits
for bloody coffee ground emesis
and ascites
If he does not get a liver transplant
he will die
Even if he were to stop drinking
he will die
His liver too fibrotic to function

I see a man with ashen skin,
yellow teeth and nails
puffing away on a cigarette
as his lungs rattle with thick mucous
He struggles to wheeze
with pursed, cyanotic lips
He will spend the rest of his life
bound to an oxygen tank
And by then,
even the slightest cold
could cause his lungs to fail him
Even if he were to stop smoking
he will die
His alveoli too far dilated to function

I am no prophet, no fortune-teller
I see the world through
these glasses
I asked for them,
desperately pursued them
Unaware of the consequences
The burden they would carry
The repeated heartache they would bring
I wish I could remove them

Now my dearest beautiful aunt
at the ripe age of 40
never smoked a day in her life
Has a tumor the size of a fist
end-stage and unresectable
She smiles at me with optimism and strength
with great resolve to overcome
whatever comes her way

My heart breaks for her as
I see what the future holds for her
Wishing for the ignorance and naiveté
I took for granted
I mourn and weep alone in solitude
as everyone else tells her that she can beat this
For I am the only one in my family
fortunate enough to wear these glasses