Turning Pain Into Beauty … Deena Metzger, a triumph of tattoo and poetry over mastectomy

c Jamie Dedes

My mom had her first mastectomy in 1949 when she was pregnant with me.  Things were different then. Mom and her contemporaries had no support after mastectomy. They had the surgery, were sent to get fitted for prostheses … and that was that. There were no hospital or clinic classes in art and poetry for healing. There were no support groups, no talk therapy. Perhaps worst of all, there was no privacy about medical records. My mother actually turned down a promising job opportunity because the firm’s board members wanted to review her medical records before hire.

Things have improved since Mom’s day, thank goodness. Privacy and rights are better protected. There’s patient support available before, during and after mastectomy. There are more options after recovery then chosing between having or not having prostheses. I’m artsy enough myself, I guess, that I love – and am touched – that some women choose to cover their scars with gorgeous, colorful and creative designs like the one below, which triggered this post. Allegedly Facebook kept taking this photograph down, seeing it as offensive. Who knows? Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. I can’t image why they would. This is a brave and beautiful thing. There’s nothing obscene about it.
11156334_10153170849803886_8901359381613103_n-1

Tattoos over breast-surgery scars started – as far as I know – with a poet and writer, Deena Metzger:

c photo by Hella Hammid

c photo by Hella Hammid

Deena (b. 1936), the proud Amazon. This photograph of her is iconic and became – with the addition of the verse below – “The Poster,” which was designed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.

I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign of the amazon, the one who shoots arrows.
There was a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered,
but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from arm to heart.
Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang there and a bird appears.
What grows in me now is vital and does not cause me harm. I think the bird is singing.
I have relinquished some of the scars.
I have designed my chest with the care given to an illuminated manuscript.
I am no longer ashamed to make love. Love is a battle I can win.
I have the body of a warrior who does not kill or wound.
On the book of my body, I have permanently inscribed a tree.

© Deena Metzger

If The Poster had come out when my mother was alive, I’d have bought it and had it framed for her.

*****

Deena Metzger is a American writer and poet, essayist and screenwriter, an advocate and counselor. Her book Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner World (Harper One, 1992), is ideally suited for those of us who see writing as a spiritual practice. Her website is HERE.

Appropo our upcoming June issue of The BeZine, I particularly appreciate Deena’s essay, The Language and Literature of Restoration..  I think the quotation (below) is relevant to our concerns for our earthly environment, which is the focus of the June issue.  Deena is holding us – lovers of nature, writers, poets,  and lovers of the arts – accountable for our part in what comes next, extinction or survival.

“Extinction stalks us. Not an act of God, but a consequence of how we have chosen to live our lives. Such choices are handed to us by language and literature. Literature that is reduced to media, obsessed with violence, conflict, sensationalism, nationalism and speciesism. We are each responsible – we participate – no exceptions. The antidote for extinction is restoration. Languages and literatures that lead toward restoration are essential. So we have to try ….” MORE

Note: The BeZine is a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines.

© 2016, words and mother/daughter photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; © Deena’s photograph and poem Deena Metzger.


“THE BeZINE” CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS thebezine.com is open for the upcoming June edition to be published on June 15, deadline June 10. This is an entirely volunteer effort, a mission. We are unable to pay contributors but neither do we charge for submissions or subscriptions. The theme is sustainability. We publish poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, feature articles, art and photography, and music videos and will consider anything that lends itself to online posting. There are no demographic restrictions. We do not publish work that promotes hatred or advocates for violence. All such will be immediately rejected. We’d like to see work that doesn’t just point to problems but that suggests solutions. We are also interested in initiatives happening in your community – no matter where in the world – that might be easily picked up by other communities. Please forward your submissions to bardogroup@gmail.com No odd formatting. Submit work in the body of your email along with a BRIEF bio. Work submitted via Facebook or message will not be considered for publication. We encourage you to submit work in your first language, but it must be accompanied by translation into English.

– Jamie Dedes 

tears into light, a poem … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without the thorn. Martin Amis

“Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without the thorn.” Martin Amis

if my voice was an angel voice
i’d sing you into ecstasy
if my hand was a healing hand
i’d touch you into grace

would that i could measure poems
to turn tears into light
to put dance in your feet
if i knew my own soul, i could
touch the tarnished silver of yours
and bring your smiles back again

© 2017, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

WRITING PROMPT

Write a poem about what you would do or what you would like to do in the hope of healing someone else’s pain.  When you are done and if you feel comfortable, leave the URL to your poem in the comments section below so I and others might read it.


51cipgnflbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Wordplay Shop offers a special selection of books to inspire beginning and emerging writers as well as recommended poetry collections and other books or materials of interest to poets, writers and readers.

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

LITERATURE AND FICTION oo Editor’s Picks oo Award Winners oo NY Times Best Sellers

Spoken Word Poet Shane Koyczan’s homage to Charlie Chaplain

A novel in verse about a boy who was bullied. *****

A novel in verse about a boy who was bullied. *****

I first encountered Shane Koyczan’s work when he presented his poem We Are More at the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver.  Like so many others, I was enraptured and sought out more of his poetry.  At that time all that was available were a few YouTube videos.  Since then, Shane has been on many tours and has published three books and a studio album. He is fast, furious, funny, compassionate and human. His ideals are real.

Shane is noted for his poems against bullying and about cancer, illness, loss, and eating disorders. One video of Shane’s anti-bullying poem To This Day (a TED video) has had nearly 1,900,000 views alone. Having said that, the version I like best is below, which has 7,000-plus views but is accompanied by dance and is delightfully artful. Shane’s Amazon page is HERE.

“We so seldom understand each other. But if understanding is neither here nor there, and the universe is infinite, then understand that no matter where we go we will always be smack dab in the middle of nowhere. All we can do is share some piece of ourselves, and hope that it’s remembered. Hope that we meant something to someone”  Shane Koyczan