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by Terri Hanson

I stood outside on a windy day
and ran my fingers through my hair.
Long strands of silky threads
blew across the lawn.
They glistened in the sun,
too many to count.

I imagined a nest,
lined with my mane,
woven by a mama bird.
The babies nestled,
snug inside,
warmed by my fallen tresses.

Now on the wintry nights,
when my head is cold,
I pull my wool cap
over my ears and smile
as I dream of baby birds
sleeping in my hair.

"When I first started losing my hair from the chemo, my hair was literally blowing off my head," says breast cancer survivor Terri Hanson, forty-three. "It made my very sad. But then I thought of baby birds sleeping in it, and I thought it would be okay." Hanson heard about the Cancer Poetry Project, wrote her first poem, and set it off.

"Writing this poem was just the beginning," she says. "Having cancer has taught me that I need to live for today and unleash my creative talents." Hanson has since designed a breast cancer logo which is being placed on merchandise for breast cancer patients and survivors.

Hanson lives with husband Donald and their three teenagers in Maple Grove, Minnesota. As for her hair, she has kept it short. "People tell me it fits my personality," she says.

by Marjorie Woodbury

When he wakes with pain pounding
his spine, and it's still two hours
before she can give him the fat yellow capsule
he craves, she offers chocolates
instead. He runs his hand over cellophane,
and suddenly he, to whom nothing
has tasted good for weeks, rips
the box open, devours an orange cream,
then three more, before offering them
to her. Propped against the big bed's headboard,
knees drawn up, they eat chocolates
like children: testing centers for flavor, licking their fingers,
letting wrappers fall in the sheets.
He savors the sweet on his tongue,
and it lulls him, like her quiet talk
of gardening, the cats, groceries she must buy
the next day, until they sense
another night past. Turning from each other,
they breathe more easily, crumpled, fluted wrappers
rustling when they turn, the empty box between them.


Marjorie Woodbury died in 1993 at age fifty-three from leukemia. "Chocolates" is part of a seven-poem sequence called "Fast Ride," which she wrote about her uncle's death from lung cancer.

As a medical editorial advisor at the University of Virginia Medical Center, Woodbury encountered cancer patients at the hospital every day. She also lost her mother to cancer, as well as a friend and fellow employee at the hospital. "She had a deep capacity to empathize with the suffering of others, perhaps because of her own experience with loss," says Dana Roeser, her friend and literary executor.

Woodbury, who wrote all of her life (she published her first story at the age of twelve), completed her MFA degree at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Prior to her death, her poems appeared in Poetry East, Zone 3, Iris, The Bennington Review, and othe publications. A number of her poems have been published posthumously.


by Floyd Skloot

She is alive. Although her doctors said
there was nothing to be done, she is home,
planting her summer garden, is not dead,
and plans to eat everything she has grown
in this plot, each carrot and tomato,
each squash, pepper, lettuce leaf. She will live
beyond the harvest and what will not grow
is her tumor, its flower held captive
and still beneath her heart. Only the live
wire of her will separates her now from
the future displayed in black and white five
months ago, backlit clearly. It will come
sooner or later, but this is her time
to cultivate and seed. She is alive.


Floyd Skloot, fifty-three, wrote these poems out of his "love for two friends, and for their courage and determination to live meaningfully."

Skloot lives with wife Beverly in a small round house that she built on her twenty acres of forest in western Oregon. Disabled for twelve years, Skloot says the tranquil setting helps him to heal and work. His books include The Open Door (Story Line Press, 1997) and The Evening Light (Story Line Press, 2001). His writings about illness appear in The Best American Essays 2000 (Houghton Mifflin) and The Best American Science Writing 2000 (Ecco Press).


by Floyd Skloot

This is a spring he never thought to see.
Lean dusky Alaskan geese nibbling grass
seed in his field, early daffodils, three
fawns moving across his lawn in the last
of afternoon light, everything he had
let go with small ceremonies on dark
September nights has suddenly come back.
The taste on his tongue is of tamarind
chutney, fish curry, clove, tangs he adores
above all else. He smells the hyacinth
and can feel hope with the terrible crack
of a thawing river loosen in his heart.
He imagines sailing among the Queen
Charlottes come April, tacking into wind
that is the kindest he has ever known,
then gentle breakers, golden sanded shores.

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