7. Wintering

Alicia Ostriker
From: The Crack in Everything, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996
Last Modified: May 6, 2003

It snows and stops, now it is January,
The houseplants need feeding,
The guests have gone. Today I'm half a boy,
Flat as something innocent, a clean
Plate, just needing a story.
A woman should be able to say
I've become an Amazon,
Warrior woman minus a breast,
The better to shoot arrow
After fierce arrow,
Or else I am that dancing Shiva
Carved in the living rock at Elephanta,
One-breasted male deity, but I don't feel
Holy enough or mythic enough.
Taking courage, I told a man I've resolved
To be as sexy with one breast
As other people are with two
And he looked away.

Spare me your pity,
Your terror, your condolence,
I'm not your wasting heroine,
Your dying swan.  Friend, tragedy
Is a sort of surrender.
Tell me again I'm a model
Of toughness.  I eat that up.
I grade papers, I listen to wind,
My husband helps me come, it thaws
A week before semester starts.

Now Schubert plays and the tenor wheels
Through Heine's lieder.  A fifteen year survivor
Phones: You know what?  You're the same person
After a mastectomy as before.  An idea
That had never occurred to me.
You have a job you like?  You have poems to write?
Your marriage is okay?  It will stay that way.
The wrinkles are worse.  I hate looking in the mirror.
But a missing breast, well, you get used to it.


Take Me Out To The…Cancer Game
by Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
July 14, 2016