I had expected more than this.
I had not expected to be
an ordinary woman.
It snows and stops, now it is January,
The house plants need feeding,
The guests have gone. Today I'm half a boy,
Flat as something innocent, a clean
Plate, just lacking 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,
Androgynous 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.
From _The Crack in Everything_. Alicia Suskin Ostriker. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh Press, 1996.