This collection of poems chronicles moments of felt experience in the writer's life before and after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Starting with a memory of a carefree childhood lived in an era when streets were sanitized with DDT, and a poem entitled "The Body is the Repository of Memory," the poems move freely from close-ups of moments in the hospital or grieving at the waterside to wide-angle views of a life that has been and still is normal, worth living, pulsing, albeit a bit more irregularly, with creative energies.

Cumulatively the poems explore the paradox that illness (and a terminal prognosis) changes everything and also, but for the shadow it casts, changes very little. "Still," she writes in a final line, "my wild heart beats." The poems are interspersed with prose-poems that shift the focus toward the writer's reflections upon the project and circumstances of creating this "memory board"--a term borrowed from the Luba people of Africa, who bead boards that represent memories to pass on as visible legacies of lives they believe worthy of being remembered.


Among the many cancer writings now available, this collection distinguishes itself in its versatility of style and tone and the writer's competent balance between direct, even blunt naming of hard things and gently nuanced renderings of emotional truths. She writes not only about her own illness, but about that of friends, and even of her dog who, despite cancer "raced along the wild ocean."

There is a poem about a mountain, one about an oak tree, about a glacier--all enriched by the context of other poems that variously allude to, comment on, or cry out against the condition of life with cancer. A rich and helpful book, especially for women dealing with their own or others' illness. Not a quick read; they are poems to ponder.


Pot Shard Press

Place Published

Comptche, Calif.



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