To Email Lisa Katz
An Electronic Chapbook by
You say I should rebuild
with a sack of plastic, or
one part of the body
A woman might love
a man without a leg.
They can have children.
And men whose legs
with women who climb on.
Sometimes a child disappears
like a lost limb.
Couldn't we have
a different aesthetic,
because of the war,
because islands get invaded.
admire the ruined, the torn, the perfect
error, because the weaver
skips a row
for the sake of humility,
because your love
needs a few stitches?
See the scar,
the flat plain on my chest.
Connect the dots.
Do you have the courage?
You won't get many chances
to look at an absence straight on.
we were four kilometers from Metamorphosis
when I began to throw masks
out of the car window,
litter the road with my clothes,
infant, girlish, and grown-up,
foreign bra with one cup filled,
the new costume
of my lopsided middle age.
You ask me
not to throw my human shape away.
Three kilometers from Metamorphosis,
the selves of others spill over mine,
their features show their flaws:
Do you see them? Which is yours?
When we get there I will accept
the transformation, for worse or better:
the wife into bird, the mother into stone.
Not least of all I want the story meaningful.
Two kilometers from Metamorphosis,
and though my nakedness suits me now,
it won't be easy
to wear the body I've chosen,
the flat breastplate, no silicon or salt water.
One more kilometer. I tell you
everything here will be or was
the form I pick
Someone new is crying.
She is going to lose her hair.
Dr. Olga sticks her with a needle,
and the nurses give her an infusion,
and the doctors hide in their rooms.
you will lose this organ
or that one.
We will make you sick.
You might get well again.
The social worker can arrange
money for some-
thing to stuff your bra,
free parking, and
a psychologist who will listen to you cry.
If you don't mind crying in front of strangers.
It was an arbitrary gene,
the electric station,
the wine, the stress, the mean
streak, my fault,
not my fault.
I went into the basement
to get a magazine.
I turned on the television
and drank milk.
came out of the storeroom
to drink milk
and watch television.
We gaped at the girls
on the television
and tee shirts
thousands of girls
with two breasts each.
until there was no more milk.
And the men whistled
when they realized
I had been a girl once too.
One man put his hands on my waist.
The other touched me here.
So they left.
And I ran up the wooden stairs
And locked the door.
Five women are counting women
one by one, they want to count to five,
five cups, five eggs,
five oranges, five pearls,
five days a week to work.
Five women are counting women
one by one, they want to count to five.
And their children count the fingers on each hand:
father, mother, father, mother, father,
father, mother, father, mother, father.
There are so many new things to count.
The doctor who frowns for your own good
and the one who cuts
and the one who builds with plastic.
Time spent waiting.
For the first infusion
the second the third the fourth the fifth the last.
For hair to fall,
to grow back again;
cells and nodes and empty hands,
counts from bone and counts from blood.
How time dies in the waiting room:
You'd counted on
longer, hadn't you?
Four women are counting women
One by one, they want to count to four.
Maybe she would have the dream anyway
if she could walk
and anyway she might dream
she's looking for a man who disappeared
and she finds him in the hotel
where the rooms are small
and you have to
have a partner
and he's got a partner.
Because she isn't dead yet
even if she can't reach the hotel room
because she can't walk.
It's still her place.
She can only spin the wheels of the chair
thinking it's a mistake.
And if it isn't?
If she could walk
maybe she would have the dream
The acupuncture doctor says
there are links
between the bitterness in my mind
and the cancer in my body.
He says there is a force
connecting my left ear
to the place
that was my breast, and
to the gall bladder
where anger is stored.
I want to carry this precious fluorescent anger
through the Gate of Compassion.
I want to throw it out and rest.
He gives me a Chinese potion
of which there is never enough.
The cells just keep multiplying.
Raphael`s La Fornarina lives in a Roman palace now,
touching her left breast, holding it between thumb and forefinger
like a fruit she wants to prod in the market.
Perhaps the artist asked her to demonstrate
beckoning a lover
plumping up the smaller breast
showing off in front of the mirror.
You think she`s coy.
Perhaps she wanted to touch
the lump she noticed yesterday.
Her eyes look surprised.
In the church of the Frari in Venice
you look up at the ceiling.
You think you see the Virgin Mary
but it`s just the artist`s wife.
Her eyes roll upward.
She`s transported with holiness
or her passion for Titian
and his for her,
but a gauze sash covers what`s missing.
She`d rather look up than down.
The gaze is heavenward,
away from her flat earth.
The Lady with the Ermine was a poet.
Leonardo painted her looking
as though she suddenly heard women crying,
women in wigs and ice helmets
anchored with a band around the forehead
and tied under the chin.
She froze listening.
Her cap looks like hair.
The Lady with the Ermine wears beads
to add interest to the front of her dress.
They fall past the shadowy cavity.
She holds the furry animal to her flat chest,
closer than you`ll ever get,
close to the heart, which still beats,
more loudly now, without the breast.
What were you thinking about?
The first incision?
Polite bureaucrat with a knife,
you had to betray me.
I was woman, now Amazon:
I stretch my new warrior's bow
over the absent breast.
Want to touch what remains?
Face to face,
if we had met in some other place,
I might have wanted to press against you.
Now that it isn't there,
would you accept the embrace?
She wants to leave the hospital bed and the tubes,
take off her gown
Her friends will remember her before the theft
of breasts, the use of legs, her breath.
The flowers are named
dysplasia and carcinoma,
lobular and ductal.
They invade and infiltrate
to bloom from breast to lungs to liver
and twist around her spine.
Here she is a poisoned meadow
watered with green and yellow infusions
of sparkling chemotherapies.
There the cancer is allowed to grow;
the doctors pull the weeds.
She thinks she should hurry
to the place where she is going now,
since she can no longer bear
this charmless planet
and its malignant ways.