The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 3, 2002

Summer's Voice flax, ceramic 27 x 9.5 x 4.5 inches 1995

During my mother's recovery and radiation therapy for throat cancer, I had various images and thoughts that came together into the poem, Summer's Voice. I then expanded upon the poem's images and thoughts in the ceramic piece. There is a feeling of instrument, plant, body, microscope, music, and sound in the ceramic piece. The leaves I used are from the Nicotiana plant. I felt a working out of my own sadness and anger. It allowed me a place for creativity and input in a situation in which I felt I had little, if any, control.

Summer's Voice

My Mother started smoking after I was born.
When she was young she sang for gatherings and clubs.
She sang songs from operettas in a delicate soprano.
As a child, I listened to a recording she had made,
'Themes from Hansel and Gretel.'
I go out into the woods now, without my crumbs.

In August the sunny paths are crowded with grasshoppers
and damselflies.
They spread their moth wings as I step among the trees.
Leaves beyond count whisper of 10,000 things infinitely
pulsing forward.
A canopy, lacy with the feasts of beetle and worm, makes patterns of the light.

I listen to the cicada's whirring.
Four years in the earth, they sing for a week, and mate,
and die.
This voice, this life transforms, disappearing,

The doctors removed the cancer from my mother's throat
this summer.
They also took her voice.
I remember the butterflies of childhood: The monarchs,
the swallowtails, the mourning cloaks.

A blue-black butterfly, now poised on a leaf, reminds me
that music is made of silence too.
It is made of color, light, and things unspoken.
Some days it is all wrong, and the words fall in all the
false places.
Yet this riot of life continues to call out quietly,
and then like the summer is gone.

Anne McArthur
August 1995

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