Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

A Web of Days – This is a Test – Not Again

Joannie Stangeland

Poet’s Statement: Joannie Stangeland wrote these poems for a friend who was fighting breast cancer. Her friend didn’t need help with cooking or driving—and Joannie wanted to support her in some way, so she wrote. What began as one poem flooded into a collection of about 20, and the poems helped Joannie to work through the fear of that diagnosis, as well as concern for several other women who were diagnosed at that same time. When she gave the poems to her friend as a 50th birthday present, her friend loved them and shared them with her family. Three years later, her friend is doing well.


A Web of Days

The moon floats, a pale balloon, a broken alarm.

A night without sleep is not quiet.

The sun invites itself. A sudden day!

The dog Friday waits by the door.

Sky changes between gray and spring. She swings

between fatigue and euphoria.

The moth on the other side of glass

makes an ornament,

a memento from Autumn

fanned across the pane in March.

A spider in the corner—

a little black hat until it moves.

Weeds carpet the garden, a green flourish.

Pears that aren’t eaten grow brown in the bowl.

She needs to clone herself: One woman

to fight the cancer, one to sleep,

one to work, to write.

And one to live.

But there is a web of pain, a web of heat,

the web of days branching out

and she feels herself pulled, stretched,

caught in the cruel silk

This is a Test

When she went under, the doctors

cut the cancer out—the crab, the web.

Now they aim a beam at her

to see what radiation does.

The skin fails, the doctors tell her.

They mention tissue, like the gauze of a dress,

and necrosis, which could be a kind of blossom,

a flower—black with flecked throat—

like a strange toad lily,

or some orchid in a swamp.

Not Again

Then they wanted more

of her, their hands of knives—

more of her body, more

of her time. They were taking

her apart in pieces, taking her

days and she wanted to stay

out of those metal beds,

the rooms with beige curtains,

the half-gowns, half-light,

half life. She wanted

more—the sun on her hair,

air in her lungs,

oars in the water,

the rank smell of mud,

a promise

of the coming green.




JOANNIE KERVRAN STANGELAND is the author of two poetry chapbooks. She is a technical writer who has been writing poetry for more than 30 years. Her poetry has most recently appeared in CHEST, Horticulture, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Iodine.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2010 – Volume 2, Issue 2
Spring 2010  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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