National Poetry Month: When Breast Cancer & Poetry Meet

Happy National Poetry Month!

To celebrate, on Saturday, April 1, 2023, I became the Montgomery County Poet Laureate (MCPL). I am honored, thrilled, and humbled to be chosen for this, especially given the field of awesome finalists. Over the next year, I will share my poetry with a wider audience, become part of a larger group of poets, and engage in community workshops, readings, and appearances.

Originally Lenni-Lanape land, Montgomery Country (known as MontCo) is Pennsylvania’s 3rd most populous county and has more residents than Wyoming! Unfortunately, the number of poets who live in MontCo is not recorded, but I am sure there are many of us.

What we do know is that breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the United States and that at every age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group. Many are working tirelessly to reverse these trends.

As the MCPL, I hope to do my part for the breast cancer community and beyond. Draw awareness. Help someone translate their grief into poetry. Share words of healing. Collaborate with support organizations like LBBC. Offer space for tears and frustration. Share language. Share joy.

As part of my MCPL application, I included poems about my breast cancer experience. The “Scalpel’s First Cut” and “While In Surgery, I Meet Someone” are about my 2012 radical right breast mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction surgery, and “Suture Means Thread” is about a friend who died of breast cancer and how grief lives on in my body.

Scalpel’s First Cut

Like a velvety ripe avocado, I am opened.
Exquisite in my halving.

Split like a velvety ripe
avocado, I am an exquisite opening.

Exquisite in velvety ripeness,
an avocado cleaved and opened.

I am ripe.
Exquisitely opened. Velvety halved.

Halving velvet exquisiteness,
I am split at my ripeness.

Like an avocado, I am exquisite.
Split. Cleaved. Opened.

While In Surgery, I Meet Someone

Thick black lines callously crisscross 
my belly, snake inexpertly up 
and around my breast.  

Between us a gauzy curtain.
I hear you talk about teeth,
loose like wobbly chair legs.

We fear what comes next.

I imagine we meet in an ether reserved for the two of us—
your teeth
collapse like a line of dominoes;
you trace the empty bas relief
of where my breast used to be—

our slender fingers curl around each other.

All is not lost

knowing full well there is no map for when we return.

Suture Means Thread

With delicate spider silk we’re threaded together,
though you are dead, and I am here feeling your burn

in my right hip. It’s a protest song—the one you screamed as they
rushed you to your death. Or the one your daughter

hollered as she tried, tried to get there but could not
because that was the day, the day the city decided to tear up her street.

These songs ignite my rusty gears, my potholed bones.
I crack and swell with you when I move.

Your anger is a burning light in between my ribs.
I’ve tried, tried to heal us. To give you permission

to quit me—but you return day after day, as an ache, untouched.

Join me and whole host of others to celebrate the Montgomery Poet Laureate Program.

Along with other fabulous poets, I will be reading and celebrating poetry’s potential to transforms lives.

3 responses to “National Poetry Month: When Breast Cancer & Poetry Meet”

  1. Dear Jenny—Your work has an awe-inspiring ability to stimulate all the senses, and communicate beauty and strength all at once. Thank you for sharing your gifts.


  2. Love you 🤍❤️🤍 beauty


  3. Very happy to have found your work here thanks to Sophie & Blue Banyan! Who knew?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: