Affiliations: Evanston, IL,
From the Hanger Orthopedic Group, Evanson, IL.
Correspondence to: Maureen Tolman Flannery, AB, MA, Hanger Orthopedic Group, 1123 Emerson St, Suite 213, Evanston, IL 60201; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ICD-9 code 611.8
“Other specified disorders of breast.”
Clinical diagnosis: Absence of Breast, Acquired.
Strange phrase. Is this acquired like
we’ve acquired more holiday decorations
than we can find room for in this house of abundance;
or like executives with their investment portfolios;
perhaps I’ve acquired it as,
with a long life of contemplation,
one acquires a philosophy
and the wisdom that befriends it;
or maybe it’s the way an adult
acquires a taste for baked brie or brussels sprouts?
Or is this how certain professions
acquire an inside edge on oxymoron?
So this is what, in mid-life,
a bodily off-balance,
disequilibrium at the thought
of my own tissue turning on itself
like a distempered animal,
the rude intrusion of cancer,
hide-and-seeking in me
like an untamed child on the loose
in a house full of delicate antiques,
a transverse scar and an empty space
where the touch of a lover once networked
to the center of my receptivity,
where love asked admittance
and nourishment flowed out
like the breath that built life
behind that sometime breast
of which I’ve acquired
Editor’s Note:The poet, while working as a coder for a plastic surgeon, was “struck by the terminology of an acquired absence.” She had several close friends recovering from breast cancer at the time. She currently works for a prosthetics/orthotics company. Her literary work has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
—Michael Zack, MD, FCCP
Editor’s note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy:Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.
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