Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breast Self-Examination: A Poem

By S. E. Jihad Levine
© 2008

Slathering Mediterranean Rose bath gel over
my breasts,
preparing for my monthly
hands slipping and sliding as the
sweet-smelling aroma of rose rises
to my nostrils,
taking me away from the present task,
transporting me back to
numerous summer afternoons,
long ago,
alone in my bedroom,
lying on top of my white chenille bedspread
amidst a field of pink and blue
yarn-tufted flowers,
eyes rolled back into my head,
breathing long and steady,
perky nipples perched
atop minute mounds of soft flesh
that in my 13-year old mind
passed for a woman’s breasts,
nipples as hard as
fresh-shucked sweet peas,
the touch of my own hands
lightly pinching
feeling far better than the touch of anyone else or
anyone since,
including that of my Uncle Tony.

Kneading and pressing my breasts now, in a
circular and focused manner,
not lying on a chenille bed spread of flowers
but hidden behind a fabric shower curtain,
haunted by the voice of my dead mother:
“Don’t ever touch yourself,”
she warned,
“there … or there,”
she said, pointing to the places.
“And don’t let anyone else
do it either!”
Not even Uncle Tony?
I wanted to ask her, but
he also warned me:
"Don't ever tell."

Memories of her shame and mine
wash over me as my
fingers search for the
dreaded symptom of
breast cancer.
Looking for a different type of pea,
but not a sweet one -
how did the brochure describe it?
like a pearl?
or a marble?
like the one Sis Nadirah found?
that betrayed her and became a hard lump?
Or the one that ended Sister Atiyah’s life?
But not before she watched her husband
die from complications of HIV?

Finished with the monthly ritual,
I roll back my head,
exhaling a long breath,
feeling a different kind of satisfaction:

Alhamdulillah, nothing found this month.


Unknown said...

WoW! That is an amazing poem! I hope you consider getting it published!


Safiyyah said...

Salaams Pamela:

Masha Allah! Coming from you that is quite a compliment :) You know how much I admire your writing! Thanks sis!

Jules UmmEmJoey said...

Asalaam alaikum Sis,

Nice to see you blogging :-)

This is such an important topic. I had a biopsy about a year ago. It was benign, alhamdulilah. And so many women don't do monthly breast exams. My doctor always told me to feel for something that feels like gravel.

Mash'Allah what a great poem.


Anonymous said...

Salaam Dearest Sister :)

Alhamdulillah! What a wonderful, rich and startling poem, revealing and important in many ways. How brave and beautiful you are :)

Ya Haqq!

Happy Muslim Mama said...

Assalam-alaikam Sis Safiyyah,
That was not an easy poem to read, I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to write.

Absolutely stunning mash'Allah and such an important reminder.

Desert Housewife A. (The Canadian in Jubail) said...

Asalaam `alaikum :-D

Oh, you wrote that? I though it was a poem from a book *lol* Masha'Allah!

BTW do you know what happened to Little Miss Muslimah's Blog?

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Sister Aalia:


Wow! I went to her blog and the feed is gone. But the last feed I have states that she may be chaning her blog url. I will call her, Insha Allah, and ask her WHAT'S UP?????

Amina said...

salaams sis,

that was one of most amazing things I ever read, masha Allah very moving!
self examination is very important. I try to do it frequently but somehow I hv always fear I wont recognise if some chamges appear. recently i got to know that even men do suffer from breast cancer though just in small %!

mezba said...

You shud get your poems published.

Big Sis said...

Salam wa alaykum sister,

JazakAllah for the poem. Cancer is a hard thing to go through and may Allah grant easy to all that are suffering from it or any other illness. Ameen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with brother irving.


UmmAbdurRahman said...

welcome back! looking forward to your future posts inshaAllah.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful - love the depth & honesty.

Anonymous said...

Very good poem. You really should consider submitting it for publication on one of the major sites (poetry, feminist, etc.) or one of the blog carnivals. ;)

Anonymous said...

MashAllah, what a delight! So brave of you too, addressing such a sensitive topic that is taboo to many people. I agree with many people here: you should definitely consider getting your poems published, mashAllah.

JAK sister,