Tuesday night I delivered on a promise to show up at the Columbus Library and read a favorite poem. In general, I eschew poetry. Unless it is more free form and prose-like, then it is okay. So, I read the lyrics of a song that I’ve featured in this blog, “A Little Bit of Everything” by Dawes. Click on the link and give it a listen, if you haven’t heard it. Thomas Forsberg put me on that song and I’ll always appreciate his recommendation. I heard some great poems on Tuesday and left there with a better appreciation of a form of writing that I have been slow to embrace. Even better than the poems for me, were the brief remarks from the readers about why they chose the poem they read.
As the evening wrapped up, Jimmy Elder, my friend and pastor of Columbus’ First Baptist Church, walked up to me and handed me a small book. He introduced the author, Anya Krugovoy Silver, as an associate professor of English at Mercer University. Jimmy said that he wanted me to read the words of someone who, like me, has chosen to write their way through cancer. It is a book of poems, and I mentally prepared myself on the way out to my truck to try to find a way to like her work, my proclivities to not like poetry bubbling up again.
I have received a volume of comments over these past 7 years, during my season of cancer. People have told me that my writings have made them laugh and made them cry. They’ve also said that I have scattered enough bread crumbs (over 300,000 words to date) to give someone with a similar diagnosis hope for better things ahead. I’m happy about that.
What I’m beginning to appreciate about poetry, at least good poetry, is how a gifted writer can say so much in so few words. It takes great skill to “write tight.”
Back to Ms. Silver: She’s a breast cancer survivor and her book is named, “The Ninety-Third Name of God.” I’ve added a link for you to purchase the book. I’ll forever be grateful to Jimmy Elder for sharing this book and I hope that I’ll get to have a cup of coffee, or a brown bourbon drink with the author one day.
Here’s why I’m enthralled:
On page 18, she features a poem called, “Blessing for My Left Breast.”
Blessing for My Left Breast
Your skin slit round with a scalpel:
Rise to the aluminum tray, the biopsy needle.
Go, nipple; go, milk ducts; go, veins.
Take with you my lymph nodes,
canaries of illness, blood cells’ puff balls.
Blessed be my chest wall for surrendering.
Now you will never shrink and wrinkle with age,
clove-studded orange, bittersweet.
Taken in your beauty, let the last hands
that hold you
Goodness gracious! These few words are dripping with apprehension and yet beautiful beyond belief.
I am a fan of my new sister — and her poetry.