What Healing Is

Patricia Fontaine
From: Lifting My Shirt: the breast cancer poems

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Imprima English

For Toni

When breast cancer had me
I only could write about fear:
the smiling impervious doctors,
the devices they used
that squeezed and pierced and sliced,
drew blood, singed and severed,
then the taut and vacant side,
or the intricate ache that would not go away
and still fingers my heart.

Some people ask where
are the poems of gratitude
extolling the new life seized
the now resplendent mundane,
my adoration of the breast
left alone.
I wonder why
these poems did not
soar out of me
still don't.

It is almost a year
since the mammogram,
the terrible words
that lodged deep
inside my ear and breast.
A journal on healing
asked for a poem and none
came forward saying
send me, let me
tell them what healing is.

Post-shock, pre-zest.
Will I ever have
A Bernie Siegel moment?
Has trauma bared
a deeper fault line coupled to
these grinding plates
of sighs?

Heaving one, I hear
My therapist tell me
this is what healing is:
just this.

No huge revelation.
Instead there are bits,
semi-precious, tumbled smooth
and showing up
under eye and foot
Where they are not expected:
sudden birds in swept skies,
flowers in vertical rocks,
sere cliffs and half domes,
yellow cottonwoods big as hope;
and water:
in falls,
       springs,
          stony basins,
rivers of silvery muscle;
sun melting frost in my hair,
the moon a white pearl button and stars
in her velvety pocket;
a van named Blanche
that drove me all through Utah,
strangers that entered
endearment, and yes, now
that I am home, my friends
showing me my vacant side
is nothing less
than here.

Imprima English