Reading the Body is a collection of poetry about breast cancer and finding ways to reinhabit the body. The journey progresses from diagnosis through chemotherapy and surgeries to healing. These poems speak to what it is to be a body facing issues of mortality as well as exploring what it means to be a woman, mother, and being throughout extensive treatment and deep healing.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is a writer, poet, and breast cancer survivor. Her books include Animals in the House, Lot’s Wife, Write Where You Are, and Sandra Cisneros: Writer and Activist. Her poetry and essays have been published in over fifty literary journals and anthologies, and have garnered several awards. Caryn coordinates the Transformative Language Arts program at Goddard College where she teaches. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas.
I Want to Tell You How Beautiful You Are
I want to tell you how beautiful you are
with your flat chest soaring
into scar across your heart and lungs.
I want to tell you even this is beautiful,
and even the rounded flesh below, the silhouette
hollowed here, extended there, the shapes new
and sudden, the beauty you could never see
when they cut your body open to where
the breathing organs breathe, the beauty
you’ll mourn from the other side of your life.
I want to tell you, believe this now,
stop doubting that because it’s not
what you wanted, what you expected,
it’s not beauty. It is
just like weather you didn’t expect,
just like ground cut back to hold more
perennials and wider swatches of
the wildest grasses,
It may not be pretty but I want you
to finally believe, now on the far side of girlhood,
past growing and giving birth to three children,
and now while you can still open and hold him,
his hands praising your re-grown hair
and flat new chest
that you are, beyond belief
and inside it too,
(c)in the name of the poet or assigns. Used for educational purposes and for the promotion of the poet and personal growth of the reader.
- Begin a write, to yourself or someone else, “I want to tell you how beautiful you are….”
- Write about cancer — your own, someone else’s. What was/is the beauty that derived from the cancer experience?
- Write anything that bubbles up in you from reading this poem. If it’s emotionally difficult, set the timer for 10 minutes. Take a break, read what you’ve written, and decide if you want to continue. If so, set the timer for another 10 minutes. Repeat.