c is for crocodile: a poem

Sometimes people wonder where the title of this blog–and now our organization–came from. It all started way back in our first days of Caemon’s diagnosis, as I struggled with this shift in our reality from learning the alphabet to learning the names of drugs. Recently I stumbled upon a few lines of a poem I had scribbled down in a book while we were in the hospital. Today, I finally wrote it:

C is for Crocodile

When we first heard the “C” word
That long August day,
I thought, No, no, no!
You see,
C is for crocodile
It’s for cuddles on the sofa.
It’s for cooling off at the lake.
It’s for climbing on my back,
And cackling and giggling and squealing with glee.

We quickly learned
That C was for Cytarabine,
Flow cytometry,
Blood counts, and
Intensive care units.

Yet you showed us
C is for crocodiles
It’s for cars in the hallway.
It’s for calling your grandma,
Kissing your cousin,
And for comfort in your mothers’ arms.

But C was for cancer,
And crying at midnight,
For careening through time and space
With no brakes.
C was for crocodiles
And cuddles with Caemon;
C was for cooking and crafting and counting.

We thought C was for childhood,
Campouts and sand castles,
Coaches and crabfeeds,
Calling your girlfriends,
Going to college,
Cuddling your babies.

But C was for cancer,
And chemo,
And chimerism,
And clinging to cures.

Still, you showed us
C was for courage,
For coming to terms,
For cradling IV pumps,
And Caemon the Nurse.
Yes, C was for Crocodile and coban too,
For cockstops and central lines,
Culture swabs, and supply closets.
And when it got too hard,
C was for Croc, our warrior child,
The boy who would certainly conquer this cancer.

But soon,
C was for chimerisms, counts too low,
Immature cells,
Conference rooms with oncologists.

C became climbing into your bed,
Lying in the crook of your arm,
Clinging to your life.

C was for crash carts,
For calling the code,
For commotion and chaos,
Confusion and dread,
For calling out, “Caemon!”
For cuddling you one last time,
For crumpling to the floor.

C was for crocodile.

-Timaree F. Marston

18 thoughts on “c is for crocodile: a poem

  1. You are a magnificent writer. I am certain other parents who have had a child torn out of their lives like this will find these words a reflection of the many shades of light and dark and darkest they carry with them, and be helped by them.

  2. Beautiful. Can’t describe how I feel after reading this. Left me with feelings no words can describe. Just beautiful

  3. Such a beautiful poem – a fitting tribute to a beautiful boy. I’m so sorry for your continued loss and grief x

  4. You captured something beautiful and terrible. The horror of illness and the beauty of a boy’s spirit, life and memory. Tears. Thank you. I will remember.

  5. Thank you deeply for sharing your experience and your beautiful, heartbreaking words. Through you, Caemon’s light and teaching touches me deeply and has changed my life and Silas’s life.

  6. Timaree, I’ve read this poem many times over the last couple of days. I read it aloud to my bears, my constant companions, I read it in in my heart, where the words are felt, not heard. It is one of the most powerful poems I’ve ever read. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, and speaks to my mother’s heart. For me it’s the most precious and important piece you have written so far. I see it as more than a poem, I see the possibility of an illustrated book, dedicated to Caemon, for other families who walk a similar path, for children who lose siblings and friends, for the staff who cared for Caemon and others.
    For now it’s precious and it’s yours and I thank you for sharing it. Although my journey was very different, your beautiful words brought back so many precious memories and some heartbreaking ones. I value all memories, they are the Yin and Yang of life.
    I wish I could hold you, or just sit in silence with you.
    Much love
    Tricia xo xo xo

    • Tricia, your comment means the world to me. Thank you for continuing to hold me up with your words and all the love you have sent our way. One day I hope to hug you in person. xo T

  7. I’m measuring my breaths right now, breathing in, breathing out, trying to keep from breaking into a full sob. I hate that you are able to write so beautifully about such a horrific experience. I wish you had no knowledge of the pain, no insight into grief.

    Thank you for writing and sharing.

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