My work has me doing a lot of education and community outreach around women’s health issues, so breast cancer is a frequently addressed topic. This poem focuses on the anxieties this work dredges up in me and not on any actual health history; I don’t mean to detract from the lived experiences of people who have been impacted by this disease.
I don’t spend much time wondering if I will have to greet you.
The senseless hypochondria I carry defers to when.
There will be no slamming the door in your face.
In the outreach cabinet, we find a silicone blob that will to teach us what to examine ourselves for.
The frames of my film reel skip when my fingers find the hard synthetic knot.
I consider myself educated.
An autobiography of inadequacy feels cancerous enough.
A regimen of isometric exercises and cotton prosthesis, navigating between confident performances and keeping my top on.
The stereotype where my meager power resides, the trope that signifies my demise.
I can barely work up the nerve to direct my own shower scene.
A auto-attack lacking the panic of violins.
Another month of shallow breathing and darting eyes, killer undetected.
My feet scuff against imaginary angles in the floor,
My imagination wholly devoted to visions of a personal apocalypse.
The thought of a yet-unknown sleeper cell is beyond my strategy.
Get pregnant. Breastfeed your baby.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, being fat.
The often diverging pathways of living and surviving.
I don’t do pink, or ribbons.
But neither am I am Amazon, a fighter. I’ve never kicked anything’s ass.
Would my mother? My aunt? My cousins? My friends?
There is a poster above my desk at work, a naked woman with outstretched arms.
No wounds through her palms, but one on her chest, a tattoo blossoming in the void of her right breast.
No cross behind her, but closed eyes and a smile on her face, the moment before an old friend is embraced.