I imagine Nice and topless beaches,
women smoking and reading novels in the sun.
I pretend I am comfortable undressing
in front of men who go home to their wives,
in front of women who have seen
twenty pairs of breasts today,
in front of silent ghosts who walked
through these same doors before me,
who hoped doctors would find it soon enough,
that surgery, pills and chemo could save them.
Today, they target my lump
with a small round sticker, a metal capsule
embedded beneath clear plastic.
I am asked to wash off my deodorant,
wrap a lead apron around my waist,
pose for the nurse, for the white walls-
one arm resting on the mammogram machine,
that ‘come hither’ look in my eyes.
This is my first time being photographed topless.
I tell the nurse, Will I be the centerfold
or just another playmate?
My breast is pressed flat – a torpedo,
a pyramid, a triangle, a rocket on this altar;
this can’t be good for anyone.
Finally, the nurse, winded
from fumbling, smiles,
says, ‘Don’t breathe or move.’
A flash and my breast is free,
but only for a moment.
In the waiting room, I sit between magazines,
an article on Venice,
health charts, people in white.
I pretend I am comfortable watching
other women escorted off to a side room,
where results are given with condolences.
I imagine leaving here
with negative results and returned lives.
I imagine future trips to France,
to novels I will write and days spent
beneath a blue and white sun umbrella,
waves washing against the shore like promises.