Sojourn by Cynthia Bryant

1.

We traded breasts last night
passed them between us
like school girls
trying on each others clothes
no words spoken
only a familiar glance

I wanted to know
what she was going through
not as a voyeur
nor passive resistor
but as a card carrying member
dues paid

I wanted to feel the white-hot shock
of finding the lump
“Big as a baseball!” she said
“Oh my God, No!” I said
“Cancer in both breasts!” the doctor said

C a n c e r
− in both breasts!

2.

As the second treatment begins
she is seated on a Naugahyde throne
reclines into its safety
removes her crown of the day
the bright red straw one
where the flower garden grows

Early warning does little to prepare me
for the once familiar head hidden beneath
sparsely covered with tufts of fine gray fuzz
that reminds me of an old teddy bear
I once carried until it fell into disrepair

Amidst banter between girlfriends
nurses who witness similar battles daily
maneuver through the room
weaving magic with wisecracks
weapons of mass destruction
ready to explain procedure    process
cheer the beleaguered battle-fatigued
whenever possible

It is then I am aware
that more than being her friend
I am here to witness the war
Her face grows dark
teeth clench as armies are deposited
into the port embedded in sensitive skin
The heat of battle follows the soldiers
leaves her body all a shiver
a blanket and portable heater comfort

I have long since returned the breasts
fitting them back into perspective
Visualize the coalition of meds
like vermin-eating ants that march
then munch indiscriminately
search tirelessly
for over-bred cockroach cells
that defile with decay
the once supple breasts of my mentor
Attack ants      Attack!

3.

I wasn’t prepared to lose you
or deal with the hollow
where once you rooted to my heart

I dealt with the ravenous disease
that stalked inside under shadow
threatened to devour you whole

I came to terms with the cure
that waged great war
on your battle fatigued frame

Witnessed salt-and-pepper tresses
lift out by the handfuls
leaving nothing but tufts of fuzz

When you wore shingles
like the roof of a worn-out fire house
head-to-toe on your left side

When your mouth and gums
swollen with pus
withered your pride

Stood by after every session
as they shot you full of pain
to heighten your white cell count

All through the cancer
its cure
the fix from the cure
and the side effects from that
loss of you loomed large

but not once did I imagine
you would move away

Cynthia Bryant

First published in 1997 by two important journals dealing with childhood sexual abuse, Cynthia Bryant has since been published in over 50 anthologies. Her poetry is on numerous websites, an e-book and she has recorded her poems for play on e-radio as well as community television. She served the community Pleasanton, CA as their poet laureate 2005-2007 and again in 2011-2013 Cynthia’s poetry books Sojourn, Pebbles in the Shoe as well as No Time to Shoot the Poets have recently been accepted in the new Ina Coolbrith Circle library section in Sacramento’s State Library’s Special Collections Reading Room.

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