“Breast cancer survivors increasingly want to opt out of reconstruction after their mastectomies, but they report a horrifying culture in which their desire to go flat is challenged or outright ignored.”
                    Catherine Guthrie, Cosmopolitan
For Kim Bowles
These flowers are so fragile. Their pale pink petals
lined with darker pink veins flutter off
deep green calyxes and scatter across the floor.
I speak them into being
with every conviction given breath.
Had these hyacinths, asters, azaleas, dahlias rooted,
gardens might have grown.
I might have summited bright elevations.
Brides might have stepped forward.
Symphonies might have been composed.
But I was born a woman, my body a failure,
and those surgeons’ hands knew just what to do.
Faceless men stuffed a scarf in my mouth 
so that no flower could fall
from my lips to take root.
They tucked each hemmed edge carefully in
the pouches of my cheeks
so that my mouth tasted of cotton
and peonies, the fresh green of growing things
that have been cut.
My world was stainless steel, bright lights, silence.
My tongue searched for space to shape syllables
and those steady hands placed a finger over my lips
so that no flowers struck the operating room floor
as all went dark.
Barbara Muller Bowen is a poet living in San Antonio with her husband, cats, dog, and a bottle of Writers' Tears Irish whiskey.
Back to Top