Telling Time

My body is a timeline
with every thick and fine line
marking a milestone
Each tract and fracture
and preserved
a chapter
in each roll and curve

My belly tells
in its size and its hide
of what’s been going on inside
The etched-on stretch marks
like a birch’s bark
silvered and faded
since they first displayed
dark and light
raw and ripe
like a tiger’s stripes

Between the moles
are the sealed-up keyholes
through some of which
a cyst was whipped
through others an ankle
For which I feel
forever thankful

A line on my cheekbone
no longer a weak bone
with titanium inside
An acrylic eye
that doesn’t see
and doesn’t cry

Excess weight
and childbearing hips
Bitten nails
and hair on my lips
Three little dots
for the treatment machine
Scars along folds
that are rarely seen

The biggest and best
a story scored along my breast
a similar size but a different shape
A valley in the landscape
a permanent monument
a tough white groove
from where the healing hands removed
the tumour that was killing me
and let me be

And every mark has a tale to tell 
of getting fixed
and getting well
of being loved
of coming back from hell
A tale of off-centre
of trips and falls
friendships and brawls
scabby knees
from climbing trees

No tattooist’s needle
is needed
to write my story 
on my skin
to fill it in
to join the dots
and spots and pores
and wrinkles
Instead, life inks
and draws

by the age of fifty
my body by this stage
were still a blank page
I’d know I hadn’t lived
that life had not yet given me
those rips and scratches
and snatches of excitement
delights and occasional frights
If nothing had changed
and no scars remained
Nothing ventured
nothing lost
nothing gained

My body is a timeline
It’s mine
My life’s storyline


This poem is included in the book, The Big J vs The Big C: issues, experiences and poems in the battle against breast cancer

Download Page Content (.pdf)