Archives for posts with tag: cancer

All the Years—Those Mothers to Months, Weeks, and Hours—
Since I Discovered the Black Line that Looked Like Dirt Nestled into My Right Earlobe

by Phyllis Klein

all those years, months, weeks, and hours
I have had a life because that black widow of cancer—
fed from too much sun on my ear day after day,

year after year—was discovered. Found
before it could eat me. Was terminated.
With a scalpel in an operating room,

where a small patch of skin from behind
the ear was sutured onto the cleft left
after removal. What had grown into a dark menace

so near my neck could have spread its web easily
into lymph sponge to travel on, dark mother
of poison. Everything I own today, yesterday,

the day before, is mine because I saw this spot,
brought it to the proper authorities, for biopsy,
for pronouncing it Stage Zero. For removal,
for disposal with its margins wide enough

to ensure they harvested it all. I remember the day
in her office when the surgeon told me
it was gone forever, all its sister cells stopped
from replicating, unlike the stem cells, bone cells,

and skin cells I would keep creating. All the time
I would now get to continue living, moment
to moment with a sense of future, a trip
to the leaf canopies of Central America,

a seventieth birthday dinner, all the meals,
plates of fragrant meat and vegetables, the forks,
spoons, and knives set over their napkins
on the table of my existence.

Photo by Renate Köppel.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I thought about a good memory to write about, that moment in the doctor’s consultation office, post-surgery, when she told me my biopsy was clear, popped up vividly. As with many of the other poems I’ve read and admired in this series, my good memory is tied to trauma. But there is something very healing about focusing in on the relief of a disaster averted.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phyllis Klein is a psychotherapist and poetry therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently The Comstock Review, Mad Swirl, and Live Encounters. She has won several finalist awards, and has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. Her book, The Full Moon Herald, was 2021 finalist in the Eric Hoffer awards. She hosts Poets in Conversation, a Zoom reading series started during the Pandemic. Find her online at

cornbread and butter
When I Was on Chemo
by Andrea Jones Walker

She called my name
as she let herself in the back door.
Sluggish, I sat up in bed
pulled a knit cap onto my cold head
went into the kitchen.
How are you feeling, she asked.
From her bag, she unpacked
three little iron skillets
turned on my oven
chattered as I watched from
my seat at the table.
She poured oil in the skillets
set them in the oven to heat
mixed cornmeal, flour, milk, eggs.
The oil sizzled when
she poured in the batter.
We sipped coffee
while the bread baked
filling the kitchen with warmth, aroma
she set out small plates and the butter dish
took the bread out when it was done.
slathered on thick pats of butter
we watched melt into the hot bread.
So long ago, that communion,
I wonder if it really happened.

Photo by Mypointofview. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although this event happened in 2005, the sanctity of those moments has remained with me over the years. I penned the first draft during the pandemic. It took about six months of sitting with it, mulling over it, and revising to reach a point as near to satisfaction as it may ever get.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrea Jones Walker is a retired English teacher and longtime member of Emerald Coast Writers who thrills to the occasional adventure of parasailing and polar bear plunging. Her work has been published in the Emerald Coast Review, Pensacola News Journal, Pen Women Magazine, Of Poets and Poetry, and Oddball Magazine. She co-edits Panoply, which can be found at A member of the National League of American Pen Women, she was appointed poet laureate for the Pensacola Branch in 2022, an honor that took her by surprise. Her books are available on Amazon.


From Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry
by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser

Each time I go outside the world
is different. This has happened
all my life.
The moon put her hand
over my mouth and told me
to shut up and watch.
The clock stopped at 5:30
for three months.
Now it’s always time to quit work,
have a drink, cook dinner.


Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2003) by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser was released 10 years ago — but remains a remarkable testament to poetry, friendship, nature, and life. In the late 1990s, after nearly four decades as an executive in the insurance industry, Ted Kooser was diagnosed with cancer — and decided to quit his job and quit writing poetry, which he had done from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m. each morning before going to work.

After his recovery and remission, Kooser started to write short poems inspired by his morning walks. He then mailed each poem on a postcard to his friend — novelist and poet Jim Harrison. The poems appear in Kooser’s 2001 release WINTER MORNING WALKS: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison (Carnegie Mellon). The two writers continued their correspondence of short poems — resulting in BRAIDED CREEK: A Conversation in Poetry, a collection of over 300 poems. According to the publisher, “Harrison and Kooser decided to remain silent over who wrote which poem, allowing their voices, ideas, and images to swirl and merge into this remarkable suite of lyrics.”


ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Jim Harrison is the author of thirty books, including Legends of the Fall, Dalva, and Shape of the Journey. His work has been translated into two dozen languages and produced as four feature-length films. In 2007, Mr. Harrison was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He divides his time between Montana and southern Arizona. As Poet Laureate of the United States (2004-2006), Ted Kooser launched the weekly poetry column “American Life in Poetry,” which appears in over 100 newspapers nationwide. He is the author of ten books of poems, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Delights & Shadows. He lives in Nebraska.

PHOTO: Jim Harrison (left) and Ted Kooser by Don Usner (Lannan Foundation), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


April 25th is Ted Kooser’s 74th birthday — and we send him our best wishes. We are honored to include his poetry in the Silver Birch Press SUMMER ANTHOLOGY — a collection of poetry & prose from authors around the world — available June 1, 2013.


A few days ago, I visited Alias Books East, in L.A’.s Atwater Village, and was privileged to hear Barbara Kraft read from her memoir Anais Nin: The Last Days. Set in the 1970s, Kraft’s book pulls back the veil on the ethereal and mysterious Nin during her final years when she lived in L.A.’s Silverlake area with Rupert Pole.

Through a series of fortunate events, Kraft became Nin’s writing student in 1974, and during the next few years visited the renowned diarist once a week for mentoring, instruction, and fellowship. Over time, Kraft became Nin’s closes confidante, learning intimate details of her mentor’s history and relationships.In 1975, Nin was diagnosed with cancer and spent the next two years fighting the disease — with Kraft often at her side, both in Silverlake and at hospitals.

During the reading, as I sat with approximately 20 people listening to Kraft read her account of Nin’s cancer fight, her words were so vivid and moving  that we were all there, living the experience with her once again. Kraft’s writing is brilliant — both lucid and lyrical — bringing to life one of the most elusive and influential figures in 20th Century literature.  Highly recommended!

Anais Nin: The Last Days is currently available exclusively as an ebook. Find it on here for just $5.38!