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Tonight Listening

by Chella Courington

It wasn't the tumor then
but the tumor remembered
cut from the breast
the breast chiseled from bone
rising in dreams
or at the margins of whispered denial
when, startled, she felt it
how it might again pull at her nipple
slip through the ribs
like a cat prowling.
At night, she washes her breast in lavender
her fingers rubbing it over and over
listening for the footfall.

Chella Courington, a teaching poet at Santa Barbara City College, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2000. She underwent a left-breast mastectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy. Finishing the chemo in March 2001, she is thankful for the opportunity to write every day.