“Malignant” by Robin Silbergleid

Robin Silbergleid


In the third hour in the family surgical waiting area
my brother asks if I’m going to write a book about our
mother’s cancer, and I shrug because there’s not much

to say about the lump or the MRI with the blue dye
snaking toward her lymph nodes or the medical grade
saran wrap and sports bra the surgeon called a “binder,”

which, when she’s home later, we’ll chip away at, and I
won’t point out the irony of her saying it’s “killing” her
to wear it, because all that is still far away from the room

where we sit with our books and technologies, with
other waiting families and boxes of Kleenex, and I know
he’s just making small talk, which is better than our sister

mumbling to herself or anyone who will listen, right now
prattling on about the miracle of split screens on her laptop,
but the truth is I’m not sure what it means to call us family

beyond this shared concern and a smidge of DNA, each of us
like planets orbiting the same sun but never making
real contact, which is reserved instead for the ones we choose

to love—like his wife, whose wedding dress cost more than
my bathroom, at home with her feet propped up, days from
giving birth and waiting for the cupcake he bought her

at the café down the hall—but I can’t tell him any of this,
especially not today, because it’s clear as malignant
cells under a microscope we don’t know each other at all.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

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Robin Silbergleid: “I’ve identified as a feminist since I was about eighteen and read Chris Weedon’s Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory as an undergrad. My poetry often addresses subjects of gender, alternative families, the female body, and reproduction. I’ve had the occasion recently to read my work to and host workshops for other women who have struggled with infertility and pregnancy loss, which, at its best, feels like a powerful, woman-centered and feminist connection. Although these poems aren’t the best illustration of this principle, I see much of my work as an instance of feminist activism.” (website)

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