Hard Love

In the not quite moon glow
of the hospital after mother died,
breast cancer, not quite fifty-three,
a nurse placed pamphlets in our up-turned hands
like hymn books filled with alleluias
and glory be's, words to save our cells
from mutation. She pressed the pages
into our palms like candle wax to fill
and erase the lines
that determine our fate.
We were schoolgirls again
as she told us about mammograms
and monthly self-exams.

You have come upon the age
for yearly mammograms.
I want to go to you, link my arm
in yours like those chains of construction
paper, joining pink to orange.
And when it is my turn, I will go to you,
clutching my body as if I were already wounded,
as if I could cocoon myself into silky
protection. I will ask of you how
to survive these x-rays and the year
after year wait for results.

Mother told me when you learned
you, at sixteen, had a baby sister
(finally another girl!), you jumped
on the bed. But now I am the one
who thanks the deity of sisters
for a sibling with breasts and ovaries
and a uterus that bleeds
and for all the hard love we hold inside
for the other woman.

First published in The Cream City Review (Fall 1998, Vol. 23.1).

Read "Antjau, c. 715–525 B.C.E."

Read "In Search of an Ordinary God."

Read "The Majestic."