Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Keepsake

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

The late Haines Tate of Waterville died of breast cancer in 2012, two years after the recurrence of her illness. In her collection Strata she explores, among other themes, the difficulties faced by cancer victims. This week?s brave poem is from that book.

Keepsake by Haines Sprunt Tate

In her breast they found a density.
Sounds they made against her body,
even sounds she could not hear,
would not go through it.
She would place one finger there
or there?her wishing would dissolve it.
It would melt away with the many months,
the many months of snow, it would melt away.
It was oh nothing, air,
or a piece of her that escaped loving,
a story she'd told no one, a fluid tale
hardened like a stone under her skin.
They told her no harm, no harm,
it was not what she could fear.
This ache was rootless, self-contained.
They said she would feel nothing
but their touch, she would not sleep
and when they opened her she would be
there and nowhere, and after it remember
nothing. For all their work they said
she'd keep one thin, thin scar.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem Copyright © 2013 by the Estate of Isabelle Haines Sprunt Tate. Reprinted from Strata and Other Poems, Ghost Leaf Press, 2013, by permission of Duncan Tate and available for order at ondemandbooks.com. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.