Chest X-Ray


The pic line was threaded
up a vein in my arm, like an elastic
through a pants waist

In the x-ray room
against the light box
it showed up a pale white
shepherd's crook above
my heart. I saw the looming cliffs
where my death may begin;
the gate of my ribs;
and the two metal valves
that replaced my nipples
when they cut the cancer away.
The clavicles above
were like the bonnet tops of gates
to heaven or a cemetery

I saw the dark, unspecified shapes
of organs, blurred like a fish in a tank.
I saw the column of spools
that is my spine–the keel of the boat–
the long bones of my arms,
oars pulled in to rest,
the ark of my ribs
the vessel I will climb into
to bear me out of life.


Amy Bartlett, 2004.