This series of 12 related poems constitutes the final section of Ostriker’s collection, The Crack in Everything. In the first poem, the mammogram positive and her surgery scheduled, the poet crosses "The Bridge" to the hospital. In "The Gurney" she goes under. "Riddle: Post Op" begins: "A-tisket a-tasket / I’m out of my casket . . . . " The poet teases us by asking what the secret is "underneath my squares of gauze." The answer: "Guess what it is / It’s nothing."

Subsequent poems include a lament over "What Was Lost," "Wintering," "Healing," and an "Epilogue: Nevertheless." In the wonderful "Years of Girlhood (for My Students)," Ostriker begins: "All the years of girlhood we wait for them. / Impatient to catch up, to have the power / Inside our sweaters to replace our mother." But in the end, a year later, the poet is well again and tells her friends, "I’m fine, I say, I’m great, I’m clean. / The bookbag on my back, I have to run." ("Epilogue: Nevertheless").


These poems are accessible, ironic, moving, and wise. They also display a great deal of formal grace. This sequence nicely complements Marilyn Hacker’s group of poems called Cancer Winter and Audrey Lorde’s book, The Cancer Journals (see annotations).


The Crack in Everything was a finalist for the 1996 National Book Award.

Primary Source

The Crack in Everything


Univ. of Pittsburgh Press

Place Published

Pittsburgh, Pa.