Sunday, February 10, 2013

Like a Weaned Child


When the test results came back, 
revealing that the lumpectomy 
had proven inadequate, that the breast 
still provided reluctant sanctuary 
for a carcinoma that malingered like 
an intoxicated wedding crasher, 
then it was decided that the best course of action
was to just remove the whole damn thing. 
And if youre already jettisoning one, 
then why not lop off its identical twin
while youre at it? After all, nature is a sucker 
for bilateral symmetry. Thus the doctor uttered 
that dreaded phrase, “double mastectomy.” 
I find it hard to even type those words 
without shuddering. The operations
scheduled for next month. My mother assures me 
that she isnt too concerned. “It’s not 
the end of the world,” she keeps saying,
though for those double lumps shes carrying
it certainly will be. But after all, their years 
of usefulness are long since passed,  
their purpose served. There will be 
no more infants for them to nourish,
no future potential mates for them to lure. 

And so, I mourn my mother’s breasts, 
though it might be better to do so in private
instead of sharing my elegy, 
and risk crossing the line of good taste, 
that length of Oedipal crime scene ribbon
as I imagine her as a young woman
pawed by eager paramours in the back seats 
of bloated sixties gas guzzlers. One of those boors 
would end up becoming my father, 
carelessness or Catholicism causing the young couple 
to dispense with the condom. 
I picture myself as an infant 
suckling at those suddenly nonexistent 
nipples. I know, this whole thing is icky
for a son to fixate on. These are subjects
were not meant to look at directly.
The suns glare, the Gorgons stony stare. 
And yet, it seems worse to avoid the fact
that the absence of those breasts
threatens to scoop twin fistfuls of 
sympathetic flesh from my own chest. 

The last person to touch them
will be the surgeon, or his assistant, 
cradling them, clinically caressing them 
with rubber fingertips once the knife has enacted 
that final separation. Those matching parasites,
weaned of their dependence on her body,
will then be placed on a tray, or in a bin 
to be tested, disposed of, sent into 
the amputation afterlife, to pass through 
the pearly gates into Mammary Valhalla.
How long will the operation take? 
How long will you be absent, once the anesthetic 
has sung its lullaby? How long before you wake 
up lighter, missing those twin masses of intimate tissue? 

Its merely routine, part of the ordinary horrors 
we all have to live with, but oh God, Mom, 
I wish you didn’t have to go through this.
I know it could be worse, like you keep insisting. 
These days, its a common enough procedure.
Most women recover. But still.
The way a parent would endure anything
to protect her children from suffering, 
thats how I feel now, and there’s nothing 
I can do but try to laugh when you goof about 
this being a fast way to lose some pounds,
or when you point out the discomfort 
you’ll be spared -not to mention the cash you’ll save- 
now that you don’t have to buy bras.
Of course, there’s always the option
of implants. You say you haven’t decided 
one way or the other yet, but 
I can be reasonably sure my stepfather 
is urging you to choose a perky new pair 
of artificial hooters.

I know; what a vulgar thing to say in regard
to the woman who ushered me into this world. 
I apologize. Its just easier to be crass 
and clown around than to accept the fact 
that my warm-blooded mother, 
that compassionate mammal who made 
my existence possible, wont always be there 
to provide maternal comfort. 
I dread the day those fountains of life 
become phantoms, gone but still perhaps providing 
spectral sustenance from beyond;
even more, I dread the day the rest of her body
decides to join them, when I will finally be forced
to cut that umbilical cord once and for all,
to stop drinking that milk, to become an adult
...self-sufficient, motherless, and mortal.

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