Posted in General Interest, literature, Personal, Poem/Poetry, spirt, Writers/Poets

Turning Pain Into Beauty … a triumph of tattoo and poem 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 keeps 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.

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.

On Friday, I posted a quotation from Deena’s essay, The Language and Literature of Restorationon The BeZine 100TPC Facebook discussion page.  I think the quotation (below) is relevant to our concerns for our earthly environment, which is the focus of The BeZine’s 100TPC effort for 2016.  Deena is holding us – poets and writers – 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 Beguines100TPC is 100,000 Poets for Change.  Link HERE for information about this global peace initiative started by American poets, Michael Rothernberg and Terri Carrion.

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

Posted in General Interest, Personal, Poem/Poetry

and then a new generation

10358082_10152372768442034_1234373728_n…and then a new generation …

a boy, an old soul
but a merry new story
fresh at bone and marrow
adhering to Conrad’s dictum
with little shocks and surprises
in every sentence of his book
his life, his metaphor . . .
wearing Truth as his dermis
seeking tears, not blood
and he, like all good art
changed me for the better

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, Photograph courtesy of my cousin Dan, all rights reserved, from the family album, please be respecful

Posted in Personal, Poem/Poetry

haunting the years

silhouettes-of-childrenthere’s little i’d want to live over
but a few moments, with special people,
their memory held safe, gently wrapped,
with affection, like a
gift waiting to be touched,
opened and savored …

ribbon tugged
….. paper unfurled

the scent of other children, brothers,
the timbre of their voices, those early days,
the freshness playing in my mind,
in flickering light, like

an eight-millimeter film
…..t of toddlers and youths

haunting the years until today
when i found you again

i reached out 
…..and you reached back

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ courtesy of George Hodan, Public Domain

Posted in Nature, Personal, Poem/Poetry

my feasting heart . . .

1385915381i0p98like butterfies battling the wind, these
the quiet afternoons pulsing peace,
Bach on the radio, sustenance simmering
on the stove of my tranquility, the days
chasing night, the nights chasing day,
rhythms caressing my face, love-bites
armouring the leg of my being, heart
beating at one with the sighing Pacific
and only gratitude for the gift of life,
no more scandalized by the news of
death, baptism into heaven, whatever
that means
, but the reports center on
confusion, Kiev, Syria, Afghanistan

easy to foment flash-points for horror,
even easier to forget just how sweet it is
to breathe with the moon and sun and
to grow with trees bending in the storms,
obeisance to the seas and sky and
living on the edge of eternity, time to
give it up, to give-up strife for lent . . .
to never pick it up again, moved only
by the gentle breeze of butterfly wings,
color and transport for my feasting heart

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photo courtesy of morgueFile

Posted in General Interest, Health/Nutrition, Personal

drawing the world back into ourselves … celebrating Lung Leavin’ Day

“Breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next…” David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

469px-Lungs_diagram_detailed.svgBreath: So necessary to the maintenance of life and so often a metaphor for life and spirit. Every year around this time, I take advantage of my blog to change the subject and write about diseases that harm the mechanism of breath, our lungs. I don’t do this to draw attention to myself. I do it to draw attention to the lung disease. I want people to be aware because Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and unattended for too long adding even more devastation to what is frankly horrific.

This year I was contacted by Heather Von St. James who wrote to me saying, ” I am an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When I was diagnosed, I had just given birth to my little girl and was told I had 15 months to live. After undergoing a risky surgery, which required the removal of my left lung, I beat the odds and created Lung Leavin’ Day as a way to commemorate this day that changed my life forever.

“Lung Leavin’ Day is now used to encourage others to face their fears! One important thing cancer taught me is the importance of acknowledging these apprehensions that prevent us from living life to the fullest extent. Each year on February 2, friends and family gather at my house for a bonfire where we write our fears on plates and smash them into the fire.

“This year, we are asking bloggers to face your fears and raise awareness of this event by virtually participating in Lung Leavin’ Day! I have created an interactive page that tells the full story of this special day, which can be found here: Lung Leavin’ Day

“I would love it if you would check out the page and share it on your blog to help spread the word about Lung Leavin’ Day!”

800px-Kitchenware_Melamine_Plate_RezowanAnd so I encourage you to visit Heather’s blog. Learn about Mesothelioma. Face your fears – whether they have to do with lung issues or other challenges – and break a virtual plate by way of symbolically breaking your fears.

“Every damn breath hurt like hell, but I kept Breathing too. I told myself it would be a privilege to breathe through pain like that for the rest of my life – just knowing each breath was a gift.”  Rachel Van Dyken, American Romance writer

LLD-TalkingPlateIn the video below, Heather tells her story – or so I assume. I have to admit, my own experience with ILD is such that I can’t watch the video or read Heather’s entire story. I am, however, one of the lucky ones. I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) in 1999 and given two years. This condition turns lungs into scar tissue and scar tissue isn’t permeable enough for breathing.  IPF is fatal, usually within five years of diagnosis. As it happened, I responded to drug interventions and it became clear to all of us that I don’t have IPF.  

We went for years with the diagnosis-of-the-month or year. Now, thanks to my fabulous physicians, my condition is “managed.” I am considered chronic and stable and have a precise diagnosis: Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, one of the many different kinds of ILD. I have an oxygen compressor and portable oxygen and medications that do not heal but do slow disease progression. I am in an excellent (99% success rate) pre-transplant program at a renown research and teaching hospital.

Heather lives with one lung. I live with two damaged lungs. Neither of us are going to run marathons, but we’ve both beat the odds. We’re both still here with our families and friends and we both live rewarding lives. The age of miracles is not dead and however imperfect our healthcare system is, people like Heather and me would not be alive without the advantages it does offer. Thanks to a combination of the best health care providers, our own internal resources and our families, we experience big and small victories and major love every day.

Please read about and be aware of the symptoms of lung disease and if you have any doubts about your lung health, see your doctor. Take advantage of the tools and expertise available for diagnosis, help and care. Remember that in these matters, timely action improves your chance of survival and the quality of your life as a survivor.

Illustration and photo credits ~  lungs/Patric J. Lynch, medical illustrator under CC A 2.5 Generic license; dish/Rezowan via Wikipedia under CC A-SA 3.0 license

Posted in Animals/Spirit Animals, Personal, Writing/Blogging

My Year of the Horse

17th Century Mongolian Bronze, photo courtesy of the curator of The Buddha Gallery
17th Century Mongolian Bronze, photo courtesy of the curator of The Buddha Gallery

2014 IS THE YEAR OF THE HORSE IN CHINESE ASTROLOGY, which promises adventure. (Okay, I made that last bit up, but where is it written we can’t hope?)

I’ve adopted Horse as my guiding spirit. In the ethos of the Chinese people, the spirit of Horse is marked by unrelenting effort. It is characterized by intelligence and ability. The ancient Chinese thought of an able person as Qian Li Ma, a horse that travels a thousand li a day, about 360 miles or 500 meters.

A thousand li according to Lao Tzu writing in the Tao Te Ching is the journey that “starts beneath our feet.”  We would say the journey begins with a single step. My first step is this: my first post of the year and my current re-reading of Isaac Asimov‘s autobiographies, In Memory Yet Green (1920-1954) and In Joy Still Felt (1954-1978). They present the opportunity to re-experience a time and place I have in common with Mr. Asimov (the ’50s onward) and also to immerse myself in  Pulp Era of Science Fiction (magazines, 1920s/30s) and the Golden  Age (“Hard SF”- linear, 1950s) and New Wave Age (“Soft” – artistic, literary, experimental, 1960s/70s). One cannot live by poetry alone.These books also provide the chance to observe the skill and absorb the wisdom of one of the finest, most versatile and most prolific of American writers. Some say his life was dull. I don’t agree. Isaac Asimov had many adventures in life but his adventures were of the mind.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. Epictitus

Another way to express my plan is that this will be a year of listening (reading) more and talking (writing) less. My father – not unlike Epictetus – used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth. That’s God’s way of telling human beings how important listening is.”  So this year – my sixth blogging – there will be fewer of my own poems posted here, far fewer posts, and significantly more reviews of books and collections.  As Stephen King said:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I’ve posted a small poetry collection on the Home page (My Poetry Sampler).


… and thus the journey continues …

May this be your best year yet for intellectual and artistic adventures.

© 2014, Jamie Dedes, essay and the rose photograph, All rights reserved

Posted in Memoir, Personal, Poem/Poetry

squeezing a penny

my mother never knew the names for things
the trees were just trees, the flowers just flowers,
but she knew life as a sigh and love as a linchpin
and how to get to work and maneuver in the dark,
she could squeeze a penny and was known to force
tired feet into worn shoes, she could make them dance

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo courtesy of morgueFile

Posted in Personal, Poem/Poetry

from the shadow of the moon

file0002109015389like lucid dreaming, like light-infused rain drops  and
the untarnished silver stars above country terrain,
my mother calls to me from the shadow of the moon
my father beams his smile at me from the milky way
gone and gone, still their essence scents my nights

©2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo courtesy of morgueFile