sharon cumberland | before

30 06 2009

PoetryDispatch No. 289 | June 30, 2009

Before

by
Sharon Cumberland

Walk nude through the house,
lifting a breast with each hand,
feeling each liquid weight shift
as you walk; feeling,
as you lift them up
that you are young again,
that they are at once your children
and yourself; knowing
that these companions rise and fall
in solidarity with you; that you
may have to give them up
one by one
to save yourself;
that they will be sacrificed,
these flowing solids,
these kissing stations,
these secret reservoirs,
for you; knowing
that you will keen for them
as for lost children, feel the guilty
weight of blood money.
Walk naked through the house,
hold them now, as you might cherish
your old parents,
your memories of youth:
ask forgiveness, be reconciled,
before they go.

[from: Kalliope. Vol. XX, No. 2]

Sharon Cumberland has been writing poetry since 1983, and has published in a wide variety of magazines and journals, including Ploughshares,The Iowa Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kalliope and Verse. After a career in New York as an arts manager, working for the Lincoln Center Theater Company and the Metropolitan Opera, she earned a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York. She is now an Assistant Professor of American Literature and Poetry at Seattle University.

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2 responses

1 07 2009
Mike Koehler

A beautiful poem.

7 07 2009
Barbara Vroman

The photograph is a beautiful accompaniment to Sharon Cumberland’s aching poem of loss. How strangely intimate and precious a woman’s breasts are to herself. Sharon’s words have captured this elusive connection we have of our breasts with our womanhood. We are the same essentially with or without them, and yet what a terrible thing it is fort those who must give them up.

Fortunately, now women can actually be given new breasts, more perfect than the ones they had in regard to sight, though not to touch. And in the end they are a small forfeit for the gift of life. But still…they are like children, in that we can have another child if one dies, but it does not erase the pain of loss.

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