A Life In Verse

Just about anyone could find inspiration in the snow covered Wasatch Mountains of Utah, but it takes a special talent to put that inspiration on paper, the way Ken Brewer does.

"I've been called a simple, humble poet," says Brewer.

Utah called him more than that — he's the state's poet laureate.

But CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan found him in bed this holiday season, where he's writing and reading some of the last poems he'll ever pen.

"I measure my life in friends who do not know my sins, who hug my shrunken body, who break open my heart with words," reads Brewer.

His "shrunken body" as he calls it — is the calling card of cancer.

The cancer is quick — he's already outlived his doctor's six month prognosis.

So every day is gravy, and every hour an opportunity for a retired poetry professor who spent a living bringing words to life, to now instruct the rest of us on death.

"For me it's natural to express what's happening to me with my poetry," Brewer says.

Soon after his diagnosis, he was writing nearly a poem a day — a fever pitch he called it — like this one about dancing with a temptress.

"Death sits on the side of my bed, skirt hiked to hair line, says, Hi Handsome, dance with me?" reads Brewer. "No thanks I say, not yet. I'm just a man with pancreatic cancer, not a corpse, besides, I'm married!"

Indeed he is — to a woman who continues to read every line he's written.

"It is, it's very hard to read," says Bobbie Brewer, his wife. "But everything about this has been very hard."

He's down to about one poem a week now, but sometimes they come in a flurry.

"Give me a topic," Brewer says.

CBS News told him to write about Christmas. In five minutes, this is just part of what he wrote:

"Reflections off the snow, mountains hugging us together, the world hushed toward evening when the memories of family open their wings to embrace us."

"I kinda like the last part of that," he says.

We did too — and in the end, that is all he wants.

"One of the things I hope for is that if I go, I'm middle of a sentence," Brewer says, laughing.

Sentences that will speak volumes, long after the writer is gone.

"I measure my life in cancer that has taught me how to measure my life," Brewer reads.