The poet who gave me this book discovered
six months and about 140 pages of this book later
(though she's only seen the first 70 and said she
loved them, which I know she meant, because she
never shies away from telling me one of my poems
"doesn't work" for her -- for a poet is a temp agency:
Hire my poems to get the job done; they type,
they take dictation, they do floors and
Microsoft Windows, they will work for YOU!) --
anyway, six months later she discovered
her smoker's lungs had an unwanted presence.
(Shall we call the X-ray a blank page some
idiot had blotted with spilt ink? Shall we not?)
Now she's getting tested (no answers
at the back of the book), diagnosed, chemo'd
and, soon, radiated.
"Chemo" suggests a long-term companion:
Tonto always called the Masked Man
"Kemosabi" -- why not Kemo for short.
("Whassup, Kemosabi?" could be shortened
to the spicier, "Wasabi?") Why should
a close companion be so exhausting?
(But they often are.) Why doesn't radiation
make one feel radiant? Why is "diagnosis"
such an ugly word? -- bald, gaunt,
with a long sharp hooked nose, wearing
blinding glasses (no eyes visible in the glare) --
buglike. Dr. Diagnosis, arch-foe of Superman
and Captain Marvel.
"Dia" -- through, across, apart; "gnosis" --
investigating, knowing (with just a hint
of diagonal -- through agony?): The doctors know
through you, gnaw -- I mean know -- you apart.
My friend is being tested. What does all this mean?
Who knows, Kemosabi, quién sabe?
Note: Since the Captain Marvel comics vanished in the 50s (sued
out of existence by DC Comics, who said Marvel too closely mimicked
Superman in his form and powers), most readers may not recall that
the arch-villain of the Captain Marvel comics (his equivalent of
Superman's Lex Luthor) was a scrawny bald Dr. Sivana (or some such
name), who did, indeed wear the blinding glasses I've given Dr.
Diagnosis. To visualize Dr. Diagnosis, just repeat rapidly the word
"diagnoses" ten or more times. "Quién sabe?"
means "who knows?" and sounds a lot like "Kemosabi".
As for the meaning of "Kemosabi" or "Kemosabe"
(and several other spellings of it) a bit of Googling will
find you several possibilities, the most likely of which is an Ojibway
word for "scout" or possibly "trusty scout".
But there are other, weirder possibilities.