(The Second Mastectomy)

I was born the year your stories died.
On good nights you held the door ajar, tried to sing them back.

Speaking, singing, breathing—all the same, you said, and you pushed me,
hard under my ribs, to show me where to hold the air. Push back.

On bad nights you were gone, and the old girl rattled around in the closet,
yanked the pillow from under my hair. Something moves in the cedar tree,

the Beloved said, someone turns the cows so their shadows align on the green.
Someone is here even now, but you will never know her.

 All the plants I loved, but mutely: wild carrot, skunk cabbage, yew.
The words for my mother’s body when her unnamed breasts were cut away.

If every woman’s first desire is her mother’s flesh, I have cried again
and again for yours, in the late-night airplane, on wet streets, in strange beds.

Together we open the empty vest; you hold the drains and I peel back gauze.
You cry when I wash behind your ears. The birds whose names I called have


Sophia Starmack received an MA in French and Francophone Literature from Bryn Mawr College, and an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence. Sophia was a 2014-15 Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she currently serves as Writing Fellowship Coordinator. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Best New Poets, Luna Luna, Her Kind, and other publications. Her poetry chapbook The Wild Rabbit was published in 2015.


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