M

Mutilated Is the Word

by Ja’net Danielo

 

that fell from
my mother’s mouth—
blade on the tongue—
after her mastectomy.
When my time came,
I said to the surgeon,
           I’m not ready,
by which I meant
not for the blade
on the tongue
          but the knife
my body would take
to itself, for that final
moment—uncinematic,
not in the rain, not
looking me in the eye,
but just a shapeless
voice on the phone:
          This is where
it ends for us.

 

Ja’net Danielo is the author of The Song of Our Disappearing, a winner of the Paper Nautilus 2020 Debut Series Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Radar Poetry, Mid-American Review, Gulf Stream, Frontier Poetry, and 2River View, among other journals. Originally from Queens, NY, she teaches at Cerritos College and lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and her dog. You can find her at www.jdanielo.com.

 

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This poem was written a little over a year after having a bilateral mastectomy on a particularly bad day when I was struggling to accept this new body I find myself inhabiting. I remembered that after my mother had had her mastectomy, she said she felt mutilated. While I feared that I’d share her reaction, ultimately, I did not; instead, I experienced the surreal feeling that my body had broken up with me, swiftly and without explanation. This poem seeks to capture that.

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