Posted tagged ‘breast exam sonnet’

What’s Best Not To Be Caught Doing In the Stairwell (Middle-Aged Version)

November 29, 2011

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Here’s an older poem for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link night and Thursday4Poets Rally, apologies to those who’ve seen it before.  (The drawing at least is new.)

In the Stairwell

Descending the building’s stairs, she tests her breast,
fumbling beneath her bra to get to skin,
palpating (as they say) but in a mess
of here and there and not all within
the confines of an organized exam.
Silly to do it here, not time or place,
someone else might come, have to move her hand,
and yet fear seems to justify the race,
as if by checking each time it crosses mind,
especially checking fast, she can avoid
ever finding anything of the kind
that should not be found.  And so, devoid
of caution, but full of care nonetheless,
she steps slowly down the stairs, feeling her breast.
PS – A version of this and other poems can be found in my poetry book on Amazon called “Going on Somewhere.”  But, for real fun, check out my new teen novel, NOSE DIVE (written by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by the wonderful Jonathan Segal.)

Breast Exam Sonnet

November 24, 2009

American women of all ages are likely aware of a recent controversy concerning recommendations for mammograms and breast self-examination.  The new guidelines issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force suggest that screening techniques are overused, and that testing, even self-examination, should be limited, particularly in women under 50.  The concern is that premature testing causes not only increased anxiety, but also unnecessary, and possibly deleterious, procedures and treatment.

This position runs squarely in the face of the popular view that early detection saves lives.  (It has been especially suspect in the age of health care reform.)

Although many health professionals and cancer organizations have rallied around the old pro-testing guidelines, I, for one, favor the new, since, as a general rule, I tend to avoid all contact with doctors until gangrene is setting in.  (Note to any of my children who may read this blog:  I do not advocate this course of conduct for friends and family.)

The sonnet below effectively undercuts both positions, as its subject character undertakes a cursory breast exam at a hurried moment, thus managing to maintain anxiety while also avoiding effective screening.  (I think it may be something many women manage.)

In the Stairwell

Descending the building’s stairs, she feels her breast,
fumbling beneath her bra to get to skin,
palpating (as they say) but in a mess
of here and there and not all within
the confines of an organized exam.
Silly to do it here, not time or place,
someone else might come, have to move her hand,
and yet fear seems to justify the race,
as if by checking each time it crosses mind,
especially checking fast, she can avoid
ever finding anything of the kind
that should not be found.  And so, devoid
of caution, but full of care nonetheless,
she steps slowly down the stairs, feeling her breast.

All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson

(My apologies if I’ve posted this poem before; sometimes they get a bit lost in the mix.)