Terri Kirby Erickson
Lewisville, North Carolina, United States (Winter 2011)
Poet’s statement: Since I became a published poet, it has been my privilege to spend a few hours volunteering at one of our local cancer centers, working with a very compassionate chaplain—one who understands the healing power of words.
She invited me first, to speak with a group of breast cancer patients whose strength and humor, courage and grace, will remain with me always. The stories they shared and the poems they wrote were excruciatingly honest and raw with feeling. I felt so honored to be there with them, to care and to listen.
Part of a poet’s job, I think, is to give voice to those who feel they cannot, or prefer not to, express their thoughts and emotions. Hearing or reading a piece of writing that seems to echo our own experiences makes us feel less alone in the world. It helps us remember that we are all “in this” together.
The following series of poems grew out of my attempt to recreate the experience of one woman among millions, with breast cancer. These poems are dedicated to my friends, Fran, Felicia, Joanne, Debra, and Rose, and to every person who has ever loved, lost, or been someone with cancer.
She walks home from the doctor’s office
hands of old ladies clutching tea cups.
strollers or jog by her, foreheads glistening
for thirty years—as if nothing has changed,
The hollow-eyed creature
of casseroles and fruit pies,
the weight of good intentions—
a woman with scars for breasts
that weren’t there yesterday—
can’t remember. She only
down soup—enough to fill her
Skin pale as the surface of the moon,
saying to herself, silently—
sick or well, and that whatever happens
on doing that very thing—leaving stars
TERRI KIRBY ERICKSON is the author of three books of poetry. Her newest collection, In the Palms of Angels, will be released by Press 53 in the spring of 2011. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, anthologies and other publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, JAMA, North Carolina Literary Review, Verse Daily and many others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. She lives in Lewisville, North Carolina. For more information about her work, please visit her website at: http://terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com.