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.
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,
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.