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My Pink Ribbon

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After my shower I stand

after scrubbing, buffing,
massaging lotion,
dusting powder,
plucking out hairs I don’t want seen,
creating finer lines, a smoother chin

after doing what I could to polish and make fine —
despite the shock of the word obese
spied in my medical record,
despite knowing how the fierce though misguided protection
of the starvation lie my brain sends to mouth
threatens my plans
from health to size eight —
I linger at the mirror after courting precarious beauty,
rueing the false security of sugar, butter and flour,
wearying of all my hungers
while pop culture’s firm admonitions circle me and taunt.

I stand, not wanting to look at my misaligned breasts, but needing to,
knowing I can live with less
and flourish

but wanting more

wanting Angelina Jolie’s means
and self-assurance — or just
a man who wants me the way Angelina’s wants her:
seeing my best first,
loving me through my worst and all my pain.

I stand by myself, calling courage,
angry that I need so much
to simply bend at the waist and look again.

When I’ve bared these breasts to the doctor and his intern’s young eyes
trained on my case to learn as I learn my lessons too,
I speak, but they don’t understand that the subterfuge of the padded bra cup
doesn’t address my fear.
It’s easy to be naked before doctors now —
not easy to say I like to be on top.
Subterfuge only postpones the moment I’m unsure of.
I don’t want to hear them say that if a new lover sees my misshapen breast and recoils,
he isn’t worth my time.
How could they not know how I dread that happening
when that moment is more tender than these …

bending from the waist in my bathroom, naked
hoping magic has occurred,
knowing that if magic was possible
it would have taken away the cancer before surgery mismatched my breasts
leaving the sculpted one to hang shorter,
it’s dimpled scar winking like a more twisted siren’s call
mocking my desire for breasts that look pretty
or at least nondescript,
while I live.

I lived.

Remember that
I tell myself,
spit it at any man who recoils,
spit it at him despite the pain of dismissal.
Attraction and the feel of me in his arms should be enough.

I live

calling up courage
to let the weight of life wash through me and bear me up
as I fumble through it for strength I’ve found and lost before.

I live,
wanting to sing it to myself now
soft,
a personal hymn I can hold tight
or choose to share
like the sight of me now
— sculpted for future’s sake, not art’s —
without courage or comfort,
but inching my way to those far planes.

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38 thoughts on “My Pink Ribbon

  1. You speak for many women when you say this, Sparks. Your beauty really shines through in this. I will just add I am overjoyed to see your post, I’ve missed you.

  2. Welcome back! That is a raw testament to pain – the scarification – of breast cancer. I love the contrast between the clinical doctor’s office, where it’s easy to say “screw anybody who doesn’t want them” but the bedroom where feeling that same way is very difficult indeed.

  3. You’re back! You’re back!!!!!! *I jump up and down and squeeze you tight regardless of whether you currently welcome such exuberant attentions (because after all, this is the internet, where the need for such social censoring seems dimmer)*

    Oh Ré, I am so very very happy and reassured to see you here. I hurt for all you’ve gone through (and continue to go through), but this piece is astounding, so vivid and fierce in its feeling.

    I want to say welcome back, but that makes it sound like you’ve returned in exactly the same state, which of course you can’t have. And, thinking of “I lived./Remember that/I tell myself,” I realize it’s not that you’re “back” that I want to celebrate, but simply that you are here. Huge hugs. I’m so glad you’re here.

    • I love your exuberance. 🙂 Thanks for the squeeze. I’m working my way back to writing here regularly and ruminating on why it’s so hard. I think I’ve been trying not to feel so much, and I tend to feel very passionate about most of what I write (and read) here at WordPress. Thanks for your kind words and your patience. ❤

      • You know we’ll all be here no matter when, how frequently, what, or how you feel like writing. 🙂 It’s so good to see you here. ❤

  4. “…sculpted for future’s sake, not art’s…” I love the bare truth of this line. Welcome back. I’m so glad you’re here.

  5. I am so happy to see you back here. Many things in this piece resonated with me, brought back memories, reminded me of sorrow and so much anger. Will you please, please, please do something with this? Send it to Sun magazine at the very least. The words here need to be swallowed by all of us standing shoulder to shoulder with you.

    • Thanks, Lisa. I’m so glad you see more in this piece than just me being upset about my own experience. It’s hard for me to just get angry (I’ve been encouraged to do that, but this felt more genteel than I was aiming for.) I think maybe it’s just my way to want a measure of universality in the things I write. I don’t know. But I do have plans for this piece. I’m in the process of making myself ‘do something.’ I promise. ❤

  6. How good to see a post from you again. With such a powerful and poignant post. It says so much about how we judge people (ie women) on their appearance, their youth, their beauty, their figure, their weight, their flaws and imperfections. What value is inner beauty when people just look outside?

    Sending you an extremely big hug.

    • Thanks much for the hug. I’m sorry for being so quiet these past few months. I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about that. Thanks for the solidarity and your kind words. (Oh, and an N.P. is a Nurse Practitioner. Instead of a regular doctor, I see an N.P. who is able to prescribe meds and write orders for me to see specialists when necessary. Sorry it took me so long to answer your question.)

      • No need to feel guilty. Yes we all wonder what’s happening when some of our favourite bloggers disappear, but we wait and hope they return without invading their personal space. Well, that’s my policy anyway. Ah, NPs were only just coming in when I left the health service in the UK. Not something doctors were keen on. Taking away from their power base 😀

        anyway, I just dropped by to say hope you are OK

  7. Ré, it is a real Joy to hear from you again! My heart skipped when I saw your post in my Inbox. I check my inbox each morning, looking for a word from you, so this piece is a real gift to me today. Thank you.

    I’m not sure that you’re prepared for the deluge of positive responses that are sure to come upon writing such a breathtaking piece and sending it into the Universe.

    This is perhaps the most threadbare, yet full and emotionally raw and honest account that I’ve been privy to hear and/or read from someone going through what you’ve been through, my friend.
    Yes, you live… and I am delighted about it. I’ve missed you.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Your enthusiasm was a sweet reward for making myself check in here today. These days I do mostly just lurk, mostly without comment, but I’m working on that. I read a poem on your blog last week that I really loved. I look forward to reading more. xo

  8. I’m so glad you’re back, friend. LIke all these other people, I’ve been thinking and wondering and worrying and hoping and your poem makes me feel like you’re coming out the other end. Beautiful writing! Hard living. xoox to you.

    • I am trying hard to come out the other end of this. At the darnedest times I just sort of shut down, but it feels good to talk to my friends again. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. ❤

  9. Lady Sparks,

    Thank you for this beautiful and deeply moving testament. You always blow me away with your honesty, talent and quiet courage. You strew pieces of yourself across the page… I so dig that about you.

    Humbled and honored to be a witness to your journey. Missed you so and am glad that you made it.

    Hugz,

    L.

    P.S. This piece screams to be published.

  10. I’ve not been here much either, Ré, and as I deleted all the prompts in my Inbox since I am now “time poor” and largely uninspired I am so glad you made it. I too have been wondering and so glad that despite it all you are fighting your way through. A brave and powerful poem. Stand tall.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’re strapped for time these days. I’ve only recently noticed that you’ve been away from blogging too, for a while. I’ve been thinking about you and hoping that all’s well. Thanks for your kind words about this piece. It’s just good to hear from you, period.

  11. Read this piece a couple of days after it appeared in my inbox, even though I had been waiting to know you were okay. I think I was a little afraid…because your words are always powerful! And of course they were.
    I am so glad to see you again!
    I have been lurking too, my voice completely stifled, for a host of different reasons, to the extent that I doubt my command over language, groping for words now, would you believe?
    Just wanted to let you know that you were missed ❤

    • Thanks for the sweet words, Munira. So good to read. ❤

      Sorry to hear that your voice feels stifled. I've doubted my command over language so many times, especially lately — such a strange feeling, but I'm trying to ignore it. I hope you get your own mojo back soon.

  12. Ré, this is gorgeous. I wish you nothing but the best, and I know you will make it out of this stronger than ever. While these are trying times, it is helping your creativity soar. So happy to see this post from you.

    xoxoxo

  13. Sparks,

    What a beautiful, complicated and heartrendingly honest piece. Too wonderful not to be shared.

    I am lighting lamps that you may find your way to a mental space imbued with courage, strength and peace…again.

    Hugs,

    L.

  14. Oh, goodness, I just re-read this after so long. This piece is so beautiful and I’m so glad you found the courage to let it out of you into words, and then also to share it. I think this piece is so gorgeous because it talks about shame and desire for connection in such honest, lovely ways. And I think everyone has shame in some form or another, but it can be so hard to name out loud. Reading this made me think about my own surgery scar, and how few people I have permitted to see it, and all the things wrapped up in allowing another person to see your survival, rather than simply hear of it. So, for me, in your poem I find a gentle, much-welcomed nudge towards accepting my own need for letting some of that sort of vulnerability out into my relationships, into the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you’re having good moments of joy in your life these days, the kind that make you suddenly cherish all the many things your body does right.
    -Sarah

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