When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 13
unlucky years ago
my sisters and I, scared and unsure
decided to raise money and do one of those walks
that are always advertised each October.
First there was money to be raised,
funds to solicit
and then registration and
finally that morning in nyc,
we with our pink shirts
joined ranks and marched through the streets.
We walked a marathon over those two days
sore blistered feet
longer than I had ever walked at that time
slithering like a giant pink snake up the west side
That night they bused us out to Roosevelt Island
where we pitched our tents,
ate some food,
enjoyed the free entertainment
paid for by our donations
had our sore blistered feet rubbed.
There were gift bags with lotion provided
by Avon. Everything was pink.
In the morning, I threw back the flaps of my tent,
the brilliant October sun
bobbing like a cork on the horizon,
and found on the floor
a pink sash.
They had been left overnight,
one at every eighth tent
depicting the 1 in 8 women that will be diagnosed
with breast cancer in their life.
I lifted it with pride, slid it over my shoulder,
did a quick Miss America wave to the sun
and returned to our marching.
You’re making a difference, I lied to myself.
At the end of the journey my parents and my husband met us
back at Battery Park where the whole thing began.
My mother’s hair was already starting to fall out,
and she eyed warily,
as if the sash were deadly,
a boa perched on my shoulder
waiting to squeeze.
What is that, she asked
and when I told her
held it up like I had won some sort of lottery
my voice excited to recite statistics
high from the journey we had just taken
surrounded by all these cheerful pink women
Give it to me, she said, sliding it off,
balling it up in her fist,
she brushed at my shoulder
as if the sash had left behind some
that years from now
they would find on a pathology report.
She pulled me hard into a hug
No, she whispered.