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twenty years later the end result is the same

& I realize only now

probably justified

yet it isn’t just the finality of the decision

to slash away at our femininity

that haunts my sensibilities and consciousness

that gnaws at the scars of my anger for you

but the contrast in the process

of the gentle men & gentle women

who listen and discuss

who share their worries & concerns

who weigh the options with us

who offer empathy & hope

rather than the callousness of a medical power butcher

that declared you

old and useless and unnecessary

a woman barely salvageable

a procedure not a name


The sought-after empty beach pushes to the edges

of the photo. You are in the foreground, sunburned

with near freckles pointed out by your mother,

father, husband, proud to be the only ones present

who have witnessed you bleached by winter.

The rest is not family, but relatives, different

tensions you say, occasional people who take snapshots

to freeze you for the next decade. The distraction

of comparison keeps the aunts and uncles from bickering.

The identical backdrop captured every time,

you whip your highlighted hair back hard,

throw your hands up in mock surprise, act

natural while the next cousin adjusts the color.

You saw that pose in an old Marilyn photo, Norma Jean, really,

the black and white one frozen two decades before DiMaggio.

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