Sky awakens along side hardened ribbon
as travelers pass one another
unaware of stories sewn a few feet away.
Heavy quilts of green line the view
on a highway that stretches from sleep.
Miles and miles of grasses, patchwork fields,
woven with browns of all hues,
chestnut to that nearing charcoal
– the darkest earth of all.
Dirt soaks up dreams…
where only nightmares remain
and linger at the root; moist tears of dew,
pure translucent diamonds,
exist upon emerald blades –
liquid free of toxins
unlike that within my veins.
Who could count the dewdrops
or replay each slide
from the terror-show of life?
Not I, says this mamma hen.
Instead called to wait,
how the sun sits high atop the earth
while droplets evaporate
in the warming light.
These are my thoughts
returning to Rochester today.
In reality, shadows replace sun
and needles step in for grass;
my arm, the earth
so far away…
Tires rolling along road
speeding each mile in a minute or less
past farms growing seed for profit;
I’m mourning livestock on the way to the kill.
Death’s a part of every view,
at home, in the car, on a chemo unit;
windows to a world without,
eyes that always seem to focus in.
She’s standing there, rubbing sleep from her eyes,
glistening tear not from sorrow but sun.
Waking only in body; she’s refrained from
coming into the morning like most would do…
Instead, called…into a field of women,
lining up north and south of the Interstate
wanting to dance and yet unable.
Their feet…and hers…
planted into generations of races:
the dirt and yellowing soybeans, Indian corn,
decaying leaves of stalks now stripped.
Skinless beings standing tall. Smooth stature,
outstretched arms; hundreds and hundreds
of white appendages, slicing the air onto her plate.
Like them, there’s no end to the women
who they represent – proud, faceless beings.
Mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, nieces.
In the midst of the new mommas
is where she fights for life,
holding dreams that have begun to slip away; dawn cracking
an egg, sunny side up, into the day. Arms
that cradled babies, washed them tenderly, rocked
them to sleep…now clutch at air. Whirling windmills
slicing. Slicing. Slicing… Counting sheep, backwards…
ten, nine, eight…slicing bread, warmed from the oven;
this is how the afternoon will feel. But for now,
fresh raspberry jam, cool cream.
Air still chilled…
Cutting the atmosphere. Cloudless.
Just the cold, sharp blades where her breasts
should be. Wind turbines, they’re called by
those who created them. Instead she sees
her fellow sisters, lined up in rows across
the Midwest and the world, up at the breaking
of dawn, sharing the breaking of bread, the making
of bread…the making of love with a body
so foreign…mechanical – arms moving,
around and around…kneading the silicone loaves
into the fabric of her shirt,
pressed tightly to a chest where
nothing else remains.
About the Poet
In June of 2008, Michelle Fimon was 43, had recently divorced and was raising a toddler with autism. She’d returned to college after 20 years while employed in Rochester at Choices, Southeast Minnesota’s Displaced Homemaker program located at the University Center.
Fimon had just secured an internship at the Office on the Economic Status of Women at the State Legislature to research issues pertinent to women when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer.
Everything came to a screeching halt. Within two weeks, Fimon underwent a double mastectomy; her hair and both breasts were gone by end of summer. Treatment included chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody infusions, estrogen-antagonist therapy and surgical removal of her ovaries as preventative measures against recurrence. Though these procedures took the course of two years, she continues to struggle with the emotional and financial effects of illness.
“The effects of cancer do not simply stop after treatment,” she explains. “Survivorship is a process.”
Fimon encourages women to express their emotions throughout their life journeys. Using the arts, traditional therapy and support groups can improve survival rates for breast cancer patients by lessening isolation and by fostering acceptance.
“Rochester provides excellent resources for recovery for breast cancer patients, including the Pink Ribbon Mentors at Mayo Clinic and Join the Journey.” Fimon is currently seeking therapy through Sheila Daley at Transitions. She’s also put greater emphasis on her Christian faith.
“Never be afraid to reach out for support,” Fimon says. “The greatest lesson I’ve learned through cancer is to build a community into your life instead of trying to ‘do it all.’ Breast cancer patients are often known to be the type of women who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Via illness, we’re forced to lighten the load, both physically and emotionally as we recover from this disease. These are the gifts that serious illness can bring. I’m learning that the best way to give back to others is to honor myself first. As a result, I’m an even better mother, friend and person. My life course has changed, but not a minute is ever wasted. I believe God can use any experience for a greater good.”
Artistic collaboration: a healing partnership
Michelle collaborated with local photographer Dawn Sanborn resulting in the collection entitled “Michelle: Pieces of a Life” displayed recently at the Rochester Civic Theatre. These mastectomy photos came out of the partnership between the two women.
“Dawn’s also a life coach, so she made the environment feel safe for me to open up. Though I was apprehensive to bare my scars to the world, the experience was extremely liberating! I have a long history of trauma, having been stalked and stabbed when I was 18. Doing the photo shoot helped me reconnect with who I am; I realize I want to show women how important it is to love ourselves, scars and all.”
Both poems transpired in thought during the trips from Austin to Rochester for cancer treatments.