A collection of poems whose subject matter is strongly autobiographical. The first sequences deal with a trip from Harvard to the petty squalors of home; life in Cambridge; parents; the wry note that ""My thirst for the past is easy to appease."" Then New York, Boston, a gallery of people and a range of visits (a harbor, a mental hospital, a reunion), the first symptoms of middle age. The early poems are titled in the 1940's, but it is hard to tell when they were written. They are more spirited and freely metaphorical than the later ones (which culminate in the title poem, describing the discovery of cancer). There is a unity of style, however: civilized diction, subdued wordplay, and less satisfactory twists on lines from Eliot and Yeats, evocation through names and places--sometimes an overweight of allusions. The form is traditional, the tone ironic, sensitive and understated. All quite reminiscent of Larkin, early Sexton, or any number of others in the genre, without ever achieving their impact. But the writing is very polished and the effect, though unoriginal, succeeds within the terms of its expressive and perceptual intentions.