I cannot figure out who I am as a body these days. I look in the mirror, right into the scars, trying to read them like the dreams I have at night of driving around lost for hours, or not being able to make a call on a pay phone. There is always an emergency in those dreams. Right before the sleep that might take me back to such dreams, I touch my chest – feel the lines and the numbness too, try to measure with my fingers where feeling begins.

I get up in the morning and always put my glasses on first, then strap on my fake breasts. There is little difference between the glasses and the boobs to me, just things I wear when I’m awake, each an item to bridge the world between my dreams and waking time, between whoever I am and others; my prosthesis something between person and garment. Sometimes I remember to remember that everyone has their own scars and numbness, most of these wounds not even physical.

Yet at the same time, I find myself often extremely confused about what it is to live in a woman’s body without breasts. Of course, I know that breasts are just a body part, not a gender identity, but there’s something about losing this part of me, this part I would hold gently on cold nights as I slept to keep them warm. This part round and lovely, traveling effortlessly with me, quiet mourning doves sleeping soundly on my chest. It’s inconceivable that such a part could be gone, that I would have chosen to give it up, that there’s so little evidence of their existence in my memory.

That’s part of the problem: in my memory, below the surface of words and rational understanding, breasts are part of being erotic. The breasts are a playground of great sensation and lushness. Without them, what does it mean to love my own body?

So I am trying to love my body for what it is right now. Let the love I feel for it – the tenderness for my moving fingers on the keyboard, the appreciation for the strength of my legs to carry me for miles on an early spring day, the wonder at the softness of my skin, the shapes I leave in the blankets. Let this love be enough.

Let this love show me the way to sing the body electric, to write the body erotic.

Let me learn this way of loving what’s imperfect from the land and sky around me, the best mirror to show us that what we do to our environment, we also do to ourselves. As well, the earth where I live is the best teacher when it comes to persevering through the seasons with the kind of grace that celebrates life, however it comes – in the icy wind mid-winter that makes the windows tremble, the explosion of lilac one particularly slow spring, the black sheen of the crow mid-day when he shoots across the sky to examine our compost pile. Life just wants to live, so the old saying goes, and this desire makes for tremendous innovation.

There is little script in this culture for such innovation when it comes to women’s breasts. There is only the narrative everywhere I look of women made of curves and sleekness, women in clothing cut to highlight the roundness of breasts. Meanwhile, I feel like a 12-year-old with my bare chest cut so close to the bone. Meanwhile, the rest of my body blossoms so much older than the child I was. Meanwhile, the breasts in between past and present sleep on an invisible shelf.

I step outside again in the morning, the overgrown grass of early spring pouring over itself around the tilted cottonwood tree. The hills and wind around this home carrying their own losses and scars, and yet lit with a green both pale and fierce, quiet and shining, fully here at this moment and on the verge of changing completely. I return to earth and sky, continually coming home.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the poet laureate of Kansas, the founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College (where I teach), and the author of ten books, including the recent memoir, The Sky Begins At Your Feet (Ice Cube Press, see www.carynmirriamgoldberg.com/books/sky.htm), and my fourth collection of poetry, Landed. I facilitate community writing workshops widely, including on writing as a spiritual path; I also co-write songs, collaboratively perform, and lead writing and singing workshops with rhythm and blues singer Kelley Hunt.


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