Top and bra off only. Gown opens to the front.
Dutiful ‘Ok’ drifts in her curt wake, cut by closing door.
Blue paper drapes shoulders, flutters, falls
to midriff, like baby bird wings in new-flight. Child-like,
I swing my legs and shiver where sterile has no smell.
Cold hardness awaits.
Radiation oncologist and two residents—or were there three?—
bring clinical attention to bear on my breasts. I strain to hear
humanity hidden in hospital speech. I puzzle aloud my litany
that runs non-stop since diagnosis: I am a pescatarian, I exercise,
but maybe not as much as I should, don’t smoke, and drink
so little that there is no place on your form for me to fill out.
No one laughs. Not even me.
One of the residents rushes to soothe naked fear:
You are more likely to die of a heart attack or get hit
by a car crossing the street than to die of breast cancer.
My quiet stare reddens his ears,
my gentle question, his face:
That’s supposed to make me feel better?
I don’t recall dressing or receiving the pink card
that will scan me without words into a membership
I do not desire, into an ending bell I don’t want to ring.
I don’t recall receiving My Girls cream for radiation burns.
Who came up with the name My Girls, anyway?
I’m not one to name my body parts in this manner.
Cancer has a way of taking pieces of you away.
Fully clothed and streetwise once more, I freeze
shy of the crosswalk. Signal light turns yellow…red…green.
People speak in passing, foghorns in swirling gray mist.
I say nothing and watch the signal light.
Wow. Heartbreaking and real and beautifully rendered.
Appreciate your kind and affirming words, Jasmine.
Cancer has a way of taking pieces of you away. So heartbreaking and true….. thank you for sharing.
Welcome. Cancer is truly a thief. Thank you for reading.
This poem fires on all levels. It’s so well-made and that ending surprises.
Thank you, Shaun. Smiling big, especially at firing on all levels. Glad you heard the levels.
You have told this difficult story so bravely and so well, Pam. And your poem’s ending is unforgettable
Nancy, appreciate your comment. Not easy to write but healing to do so.
you got me with “Dutiful”
Glad to hear it, Jim!
a moving poem–so quiet and loud at the same time.
Ahh, Nettie…thank you for your words: so quiet and loud at the same time.
You paint the story, rather than tell it–lovely! I like the phrase, “where sterile has no smell.”
This is a proud statement of who a person is with/beyond disease…
Thank you, Greg. Words oozed out of those treatment room walls. Especially appreciate you see my strength and pride!
This is such a brave and h0nest poem. I hear you when it comes to “my girls! Thank you.
Thank you, Linda! Good to be heard, especially on ‘my girls’!