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Ode to Tamoxifen



Tomorrow, I bid you farewell

in favor of your younger sister.


You have given me bloatedness

that goes on for weeks, uncertainty

about whether any period will come

at the end of it. 

Weight gain around my middle,

lent my body an attachment

to that weight.


In the early days, you produced dizziness.

What’s most frustrating


is what you took–the ability to remember

whether I’d said something before,

why I’d walked into a room, that I was boiling water,

or that I have a meeting

on any given morning. But it’s a year since the radiation

stopped–a year and three months to be precise–

and so far you’ve kept cancer at bay. Or perhaps

cancer has been occupied elsewhere independently, 

but anyway I can’t quite hate you

because there’s so much good you’re capable of--

preventing breast cells from binding to estrogen

that feeds malignancy.

Also, I wanted to keep my breasts and you were most of the reason

I could without feeling completely foolish or wondering

if I still had a death wish.  


If you haven’t heard how it happened, 

cancer came and asked me–at a time when I was already struggling

with the question–Do you want to live? and its presence

clarified and heightened the query in such a way 

that I could finally see the answer. After surgery and radiation

you were there to help me prove my yes.


So I neither love nor hate you. Or I love and hate you simultaneously.

Either way, I’m glad to be trying something new even if it’s only

a younger version of you, with an added ingredient–chlorine–

like from a pool. Chlorinated water, chlorinated estrogen disruptor,

may your sister make everything clearer–bright blue vision to the cement bottom,

may she let my mind be. There is so much that I have to do.

ANN TWEEDY's first full-length poetry book, The Body's Alphabet, was published by Headmistress Press in 2016. It was awarded a Bisexual Book Award in Poetry and was named as a Lambda Literary Award finalist and as a Golden Crown Literary Society Award finalist. She is also the author of three chapbooks—White Out (Green Fuse Press 2013), Beleaguered Oases (2nd ed. Seven Kitchens Press 2020), and A Registry of Survival (Last Word Press 2020). Additionally, she has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Net Awards. Her poetry has been published in Rattle, Clackamas Literary Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Literary Mama, Naugatuck River Review, and many other places.

Besides writing poetry and essays, Ann is a legal scholar writing on both tribal civil jurisdiction and bisexuality and the law. She currently serves as a Professor of Law at the University of South Dakota, where she focuses on Native American Law.

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