A Mastectomy Cycle
Larry Smith


I mean the flower
not the act of once having gotten up from a chair or done something in response to an occasion
thou art sick
not to rise, rose, wither rather in your row, in faded delectations,
the forbidden lovely things of which you once were symbol
or closer than symbol, the very attar of that of which you are the symbol,
whichever, it doesn't matter now.
The scent is sick, gone my roes
and goodbye, elegy, you're dead too.
Thou art very sick.


I will not write heaving up gothic threnodies like the ones the famous desperate ladies loosen like
I will not indulge myself like that
or pretend my sorrow teaches anyone anything.
I despise hysteria enthroned as honesty.
Once the petal darkens, the stem quakes -- more than that I will not say
except the roots rot too, die in the loam they lived in.
I will not say more than that
except I'll die having
met ass to size.


A human being consists of all that she has lost
or what he the silenced mate has given up,
being basically being the detritus and baggage of successive losses
the parts of you that are left on cutting floors and in the hulls of boats,
the pieces of your mind you gave.
Where do you think they are now, in what dumpster
on what trow cruising which river?
They have no use as severed separated pieces
unless they feed them to a dog
which they don't do, the dog wouldn't eat it anyway.


For example
there's Henry Cone who lost his bone
and Sally Tripp who bit her lip.
There's Richard Roe who stubbed his toe
and Gloria Bain who slashed her vein.
Mean Black Bart broke her heart
when Eloise von Schermerhorn nee Sackowitz
relinquished both her tits
and didn't know where to find them.


I think the time has come to get serious about metaphor
or the correlatives the wild woods and hillocks offer and that poets love to name
like gladiolas or gingko leaves or the sad timbering declivities on swards bleached by sunsets
so many sunsets over such expanses of fetid days,
and to swirl with the mind mindlessly in the crevices
in the rocks on the hill by the ocean in Maine where the light is so definitively crystal
that anyone can take a good photograph of the sky even with a bad camera,
or to surprise the heron in its lair, where was it…somewhere near Lake Huron,
or to see the bird rise suddenly like a beast who would be so darksome and forbidding if herons were
darksome and forbidding, which they are not,
or to capture some kind of lyricism in the groves and puddles that stand for themselves and are
simply in their naming, without meaning anything else too specific,
but I've never been an outdoor type of girl
and I'll need a dictionary to name the trogon or a song to remind myself of the hummingbird.
All I had of all that before I died was
the light in Maine and the wing-sweeping heron, I'd never seen power like that bird's that was somehow
so unassuming.
Maybe I can get closer to him (or her as the case may be).


He used to like to suck them but sometimes not
if doing so made him feel infantilized.
I understood that and respected it
and we made love however else we wanted.
Other times he was passionate about them,
willing then to abandon all, his own selfhood even,
in the wild abandon of adoring my breasts,
although he never talked about them as intimately as he talked about other things
of the body and not of the body.
I think too of the first time someone shared my breasts,
it was not a man, it was another girl a year or two younger than I was then when I was twelve.
They had begun to flower and she played with them,
not groping so much as feeling me up as you might touch an udder before the milking.
She didn't say anything but I could tell she was getting a kick out of them
and now I want to get a message to her, whoever she is, I can't remember her name,
and wherever she is, perhaps still in the same town where we grew up.
I won't beleaguer her or tell her they've been hacked off,
I don't know what the message will be, it might be something indifferent like hey didn't we grow up
Hey didn't we grow up together
in a landscape barren of forsythia or loose strife or other plants the poets like to name
and I hope this message finds you well and in good health.
Say, how do you like this crazy bird who flew into your life
with my message, such as it is, tied to his talon (or her talon as the case may be)?


There is no man in the moon
but there is a bald woman there
whose big eyes are kinder than cold
and they yearn right at you when it's full.
The moon has no tits, it doesn't even have pubic hair,
just a horn, and rock gardens, with limestone piers
that cut across the planes, which loom above us,
they're polished nosecones of slate molded back against itself
and buboes of deathly alabaster plumped dome-like on the surface,
and countless stones so dead they have no character I can describe here.
How beautiful! Hey didn't we grow up together?


I am Medusa
hair today and gone tomorrow
or should that be heron today and gone tomorrow?
I am that shrunken head of a flower
titless then, bald now, and eagles have no sex that compares to their other grandeurs.
There is so little of me left the wind can pick me up and deposit me like driven silt
or re-grow me as a pine forest, poetry's answer to the flames that devour elms and the rose beds that
surround their trunks.
I need to say something
and it has nothing to do with losing my tits
or reciting the names of river basins or microscopic life forms as a poet might in a poem
or even lamenting the desiccation of wet delicious landscapes, not when these lunar gardens superimpose
a sense of beauty that could drive some folks to make a cult of death or at least a veneration of the
stasis of rock and hard place and limestone outcroppings greener than the grass that grows where
she and I grew up together, didn't we? Do you think I should ask her if she remembers pawing my
or should I just send her something astoundingly nondescript? I think that's what I should do.


Good for you, you've got me talking, you've distracted me.
Say, you know, one thing that pains me so is how my husband is suffering,
I worry about him as much as I miss my tits, which means I still know how to love,
and I do so believe that whatever scow they're discarded in, they won't be given to the dogs to eat,
if only because the dogs won't eat them anyway.
The sense of horror never abandons someone who's been hacked up, which means there are at least
some faithful things that won't desert us.
All women cherish their tits, even women who've never made love or bounced them proudly.
I never saw her after she felt me up, which means the last time I saw her she was still too young to have
tits. She lives titless in my memory.


It happened just yesterday in the same way
as the Thirty Years War may be scheduled for tomorrow and a First or Second Crusade the day after.
I crawled through snaking small streams of lost white petals (someone else's severed hyacinths? Who
is the hyacinth girl these days?)
toward the place between the two old forked elms (is that poetry enough?)
where I knew the heron was accustomed to alight darkening with his (or hers as the case may be) wings
the slightly unsettled sunlit afternoons, in the spring, and this was late May already.
You don't usually think of herons sleeping, but this one was,
so I had my message written and ready on a small scrap legible as I could make it
with a string cut into the paper and a circle waiting to be a knot at the other end so I could tie it quickly
to a talon before the great bird awoke.
The heron looked so calm when I got right up against that face with its studied (so it seemed)
seriousness, I don't know how the bird still slept when I was that close maybe it's because I had
no tits but I knew I had to act fast in any event
so I strung the scrap to the claw, and pulled it to tighten it as the great being awoke with a flourish that
almost knocked me down
and the wings of that heron spread wide right above me and made a shadow all around me that could have
been my death itself (is that poetry enough?)
and that's when in an indecipherable trice the bird flew off and if I had known what the scrap I had
written on said I forgot it in that moment.
Go fly with the winds your own majesty stirs and carry whatever it was I wrote, to her I might have
grown up with
because it is through you I speak the nondescript something, honorable for its being nondescript,
even as the winds the same winds carry me my petals all sere aloft with you, heron, those carcasses of two
beautiful dead things that once were mine.
Oh rose
I mean the flower
not (so much) the act which if you were in another tense and called it risen could refer to God
thou art sick
and shrunken and blown south or north of the Great Lakes due west of the big cities and east of
the endless plains
as the bird itself meanwhile sets a course east where the sun rises.
So long, heron. Give my regards to Broadway.