The Seminar

Joan Colby

“Here’s how to draw on eyebrows
once they have fallen out.” The volunteer
traces with a pencil soft as
oak shade. Another demonstrates
how to oil the bald scalp; she fits
the wigs, courtesy of the Society.

They are all smiles. “Ladies,
isn’t this fun. Let’s try the makeup now,
free samples that you can take home.”
If only, thinks Christina, the money for these
products could be diverted
for something to combat the nausea
or the pain, if not the cure.

One breastless woman has brought her young
granddaughters. Another, on round three
of chemo, swears this is the last. A girl
weeps, only 21 with Hodgkins, her beautiful
hair, long and heavy as a cross.

Christina tries to say: this is what it’s like
for us, the patients, but these two in smocks
don’t want to hear. “Think of one blessing
every day,” says the elder. “When your eyelashes
are gone, you should use bright lipstick,
red or fuschia.”