Elegy to Rachel

Elegy to Rachel

Our separate portions of time
were not, after all, perfectly
concurrent. They only overlapped,
briefly, waves from the same sea
reaching toward the shore.

Time as we live it
is itself imperfect,
marked by linearity.
Birth, holidays, love,
all that we celebrate
lulls us with cycles, the regularity
of tides, but still yields to the pull
of outside forces,
measuring hours,
months, years, moments that mark us,
building, eroding,
shifting our lives like sand.

So, too, catastrophes
add and subtract
our lives’ strata,
crash and recede
like hurricanes.
We grow watchful, learn fear,
lose sleep,
wait. Each plan we make,
each sunrise, turns on an axis
we cannot see,
a diurnal revolution that is not
an act of bravery,
but of nature, involuntary
as breath and momentum, propelling us forward,
the ebb and flow of our blood.

Death seems unnatural,
a betrayal of this ancient
and eternal tide, erratic, impersonal,
arbitrary. The most powerful gods
in our primal pantheons
were always the gods of death.
And yet, in our cells,
we still bear this fatal atavism,
flouting, or perhaps defining
the insistence of our breath.

Here, now, on this shore,
you are absent
from sight, but not
absent from time,
although I must continually forgive
myself for leaving you behind,
swept along by the maelstrom
that pushes me further and further
from our mutual shore.
But in my cells, another force
as constant as tides, a benign vortex,
turns on the axis of memory.


Rachel Cheetham Moro died on February 6, 2012 of metastatic breast cancer. You may visit her blog at Cancer Culture Chronicles. As a special tribute to her, and to ensure that her life, and her wit, wisdom and passion will not be forgotten, Sarah Horton, author of Being Sarah, and Mandy Cheetham, Rachel’s mom, have published her blog in book form. You can read about their project here, and you can purchase the book itself here.

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 05:01 pm, filed under Life & Mortality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

21 Responses to “Elegy to Rachel”

  1. simply lovely. just lovely.

  2. XO, Lauren. I’m so deeply sad.

  3. So beautiful. Your words carry a lot of love beneath the sadness. We grieve alongside you.

  4. Thank you for this gift, Kathi. That’s what it is, a gift. We will not forget. hugs.

  5. Wow. Kathi, this is just beautiful.

  6. Thanks, everyone. xo

  7. Speechless at the raw beauty of the words. Much love to you…. and to all….


  8. Thank you, AnneMarie. I hope very much that, among other things, it speaks to this nonsense about our ‘bravery.’ It’s not that Rachel, or any one of us, decides to be brave in the face of cancer or any other catastrophe. It’s that while we are alive and breathing, while we still exist, we cannot help but put one foot in front of the other, by the very fact of our being. xo

  9. dear kathi,

    this elegy – breathtaking, lyrical, heartwrenching, stripped of sentiment – the truth of our lives ebbing and flowing, our plight to live with all our might, the forces that work for and against us to do so, left behind or flying away before what we thought our time would be.

    so meaningful, so beautiful. i hope you found great comfort in writing such a moving tribute to your dear rachel. i believe that words like these you have written for her have no choice but to take wing and fly straightaway to her soul, and are now embracing her with your love and understanding.

    much love to you, xoxo

    karen, TC

  10. Thank you for your very kind comments, Karen. Everyone’s comments have been so gratifying. This had all been churning inside for weeks, but I didn’t know where to begin. I used to write quite a lot of poetry, and to say what I needed, I finally realized that prose was just not adequate. It felt good, necessary, to dive in to that deep place. I wept all through the writing of it, but, like all good catharses, it left me feeling clearer and more at peace. xo

  11. What wonderful deep meaningful words… <3

  12. <3

  13. Wow. Just wow. I don’t have any words.

  14. […] This is weird post, not at all really about what I want to be posting about. There is so much going on (and not going on) in cancerland that I want to write about. All of the fallout for Livestrong and the continued nonsense of Susan G. Komen (trust me, I will be back on that soon), survivorship, and Rachel. Rachel who died last year. Rachel who was amazing and who is missed by so many. I miss her. She was amazing, insightful, possessed a sharp and incisive and unmatched wit. She made things happen and to this day, her blog and her words continue to change the face of cancer. Here is a beautiful post dedicated to Rachel written by my friend Kathi, the author of the blog: The Accidental Amazon – check it out here: Accidental Amazon […]

  15. A superb, beautifully written, heartfelt, honoring, truthful and poignant post. xoxo

  16. Thank you, Renn. xoxo

    And thanks, hopeforheather.

  17. Dear Kathi,
    Sigh . . .
    You already know how I feel about your beautiful poem for Rachel. But, here it is February 6th and I have returned to read your poem again and again because it feels like in reading it over and over it is both like a prayer and a way to connect to her and to all of this nonsense. Thank you for writing it, sharing it and for giving it to us all in advance of the anniversary of her death. Much will be written today about Rachel. Much will be thought about her. I am thinking of her now as I do on many days, but especially now.
    Love to you,

  18. I know, Lisa…big sigh. Lots of tears.

  19. […] Accidental Amazon: Elegy to Rachel […]

  20. Gorgeous poem, very poignant. I’m sure Rachel would be proud.

  21. […] like a chicken cutlet. I feel incredibly lucky to have become friends with Shelli and Carolyn. And Rachel. And several other remarkable women who do have metastatic breast cancer. It was Rachel who first […]

Leave a Reply