They perch on their haunches on the stoop On the mean streets of the inner city, The boys dealing cards. Shuffle, trump, Rap a little, build a fire in an old barrel, Wear gloves with no fingers and at dusk Everyone but The Boys scurries off Like roaches leaving the gamblers behind and you Only ever saw it in the movies 'til now.
It's like waking up almost. For the first time walking the block and knowing You were wrong: not everyone here is trading Dealing cards for dealing highs; it's ALL a gamble And like everyone else you Are grateful to have been dealt in at all; The dealer isn't you. But it isn't those guys in South Philly either.
And you're grateful. You gambled all your life, you know You get it now; the Dealer holds the cards. You'll read the cards you're dealt, discard A few just like the Corner Boys have done, Just like you imagine them to do, And there you are With your own hand to play:
Hit me. Two cards down Two more dealt and one is this new Love of your life and one Of course the Wild One is your get out of jail free card, Your wild card, it's The Cancer Card.
Stunned when you turn it up The boys on the corner switch To dice throwing And fade; You recede Into their background, The wild card stark in your hand, Designed to stick out, The Cancer Card.
Suddenly you don't wanna play You want your discard back You want to fold You are blinded by the street glare, the noise, the rap-tones from the corner boys and You were soooo sure you don't belong In this neighborhood Here playing cards but Oh Yes You Do
This poem was inspired during a writing workshop at Stanford's Medical Oncology Center when Joan was asked to consider the wild card in a deck of playing cards. Excerpts of "Wild Card" appear in Sharon Bray's, When Words Heal.
This poem has previously appeared in When Words Heal, by Sharon Bray.