Breast Cancer

This poem is a homage to every brave woman I have ever known.













Youthful temptress, aging oracle,

Nymph-like debacle, Gorgon spectacle,

Retreat from retribution’s precipice,

And a transient victory wrought by avarice,

To listen to a parable

Devoid of the empirical.


Several centuries ago in the land of the Saracen,

You were born to a tribe called the Bedouin.

Clad in hijab to protect you from knowledge that is carnal or ecstatic,

Your elders were quite emphatic

In their desire to imbue you with virtue

In languages derived from Aramaic.

Rules were enforced by the prevailing patriarchy,

Who were keenly aware of lust in the presence of your budding sexuality.


Nature’s sculpting of your cherubic form

Into a Circe with Djim-curved breasts

Straining against material meant to cocoon a figure otherwise ethereal,

Did little to maintain the moral norm.

Codes of the West and codes of the East,

Dictated restriction or punishment for unleashing a Beast

Called unrestrained passion, robbing Man of reason,

Paralyzing Zeus with snake-like tendrils spewing poison and hissin’,

Only the strength of family kept you safe from the abyss

And the sword of Perseus,

Albeit temporarily.


In the ensuing years

Your inevitable rebellion as an uncontrollable hellion,

Sent you scurrying in a soulless desert from the puritanical to the heretical,

Falling for a secular encyclical

Promoting the hype of the perfect male archetype.

The rush of intellect combined with tingling nerves and tissue erect,

Anesthetized your senses

And blinded you to fragile mental fences,

Especially your own…


Now, in your twilight years,

Forced to face your deepest fears,

You gaze into a mirror,

To inspect Aphrodite with a wrinkled body all-a-quiver,

Sagging breasts with shriveled aureoles publicly wrapped in fashionable frills-

Fatty tissue feted by paramours over whom you once held sway,

Rose-tinted nipples electrically bonded to Venus’ mound in her heyday,

Now drooped untouched below a proud visage lined with pain

And experience in surviving life’s interference.


As you caress your naked loneliness,

And pause to touch a cancerous mass,

In life-giving organs soon to be disfigured by modern medicine,

In its quest to heal every lesion,

Your heart yearns for a cloak to shield your fading womanhood.

But inevitably you muster the strength,

To find your own identity and carry on the fight,

To any length, even to death’s finality,

For you are now fearless

And ready to show your true beauty and grace in the face of adversity.


Russian female authors

When I suffer from writer’s block or simply want to escape from the 24/7 drumbeat of divisive rhetoric punctuated by violence, I often travel to one of the public libraries. Here, hidden in dusty book jackets are stories too long to encapsulate in tweets, but filled with tales of the human condition. No one is a comic book hero or villain and yes, one discovers that Russians are people as well.

Russian female authors pull back the veil of confusion to reveal complex women that do not easily fit the caricature of spy or femme fatale. The country singer, Iris De Ment, understood this point and serenaded the works of famed Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova in her album, “Trackless Woods.”

Here are other random excerpts from books  about Russian female authors that I read at the library:

  1. “One of Natalia Baranskaia’s books tells the story of how a society discards an older woman no longer considered useful in terms of labor.”
  2. “Maia Galina writes about an actress, her daughter, husband, and the effects of marital infidelity.”
  3. “Prose of Life” author, Benjamin Sutcliffe’s analysis of the Russian female authors of the 1960s are: “Baranskaia and Grekova echo Virginia Woolf in describing fragmentary lives that inevitably induce exhaustion.”
  4. Biases are also evident, as in Baranskaia’s interpretation of “the masculine behavior of career women destroying gender binarism in the (former) Soviet Union.”
  5. If another author is to be believed, Ludmilla Petrushevskaia’s manuscript detailing the minutiae constituting the life of a woman in the (former) Soviet woman languished on editorial shelves.
  6. Another author, writes movingly about a woman hurt after being shunned by her coworkers, but does not provide a reason for the censure.
  7. One author shows the full range of human complexity by having a character rail against capitalism as “the conversion of things into people and people into things” and then proceeding to show how these critics proceed to do exactly what they criticize other people of in their own lives.