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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2016 - Vol. 13, Issue 2

"Neurodivergency" and "Mastectomy"

written by

Jessica Goody


“At last, I began to consider my mind's disorder a sacred thing.”-Arthur Rimbaud

I survived the Holocaust of birth,

the poison palace of the womb.

One quadrant of my brain is blank,

oxygen lost like air from a broken balloon.

In my mind’s eye, that hollow is dark,

a clotted cave of scar tissue. Elsewhere,

brain pathways are lit like switchboards,

thoughts blinking like turn signals.

You can see the nerve-socket glow,

trace its trail from synapse to cell.

The ego delights in taxonomy, sorting the population

into neat categories: “normal”, “perfect”, “strange”.

Imaginary words, transient and impossible

as the ever-shifting horizon.

All neurodivergency is the same.

The tic and twitch of Parkinson’s Disease

isn’t all that different from the spastic’s spasm:

The complicated electrical mechanisms of the mind

are controlled by the same mental motherboard.

The brain rattles in a dance of the ancient trickster god.

Numbers and letters flicker on the page like butterflies

defying capture, evading lepidopterous nets and corkboards.

Perhaps the silence of the autistic, the selective mute

is a defense mechanism against society’s noise,

the volatile verbosity of Tourette’s

a simple refusal to let his subconscious go unheard.




The scar was violently red,

curving in the exact shape

of the breast that was no longer there.

I could not stop staring, could not decide

what was more obscene, more shocking:

the nudity of an authority figure,

or the vivid cruelty of deformity and scar tissue.


Her children were long grown, parents themselves,

that day when I accidentally walked into her bedroom.

She did not hear my knock. Her eyes were hard with pride.

My gasp was like a breath of wind. I had never heard

of such a thing, an amputated mammory.


Did she have phantom chest pains, like soldiers?

Did she trace the trail of the scar at night, fingering

a shadow of flesh? Was it warm to the touch,

redly inflamed and new? Does she mourn?

How long for the memory to fade,

of a once-healthy, perfectly-proportioned body

rendered lopsided and blank?


Did she miss the familiar image of herself, smooth and whole?

Or did she feel lighter with the missing flesh carved away,

the heavy bosom no longer hefted and strapped into place

with a brassiere sculpted of metal and lace?

She was far too modest to consider the mercenary uses of breasts,

the women who employ their figures like weapons

with which to seduce and manipulate.


Left infertile by the time-release process of menopause,

her skirts and sheets no longer stained red-black with clots of blood,

did she feel relief at the thought of her crone-hood,

her status transfigured from work-horse and pack-mule into wise elder?

Without the messiness of the monthly bloodletting,

the biological imperative of reproduction, did she feel a weight lifted

or did she feel lost, adrift, remembering the infant in her arms,

the nourishment of one body flowing into another?



“Neurodivergency” previously appeared in Barking Sycamores.

Jessica Goody writes for SunSations Magazine and The Bluffton Sun. Her work has also appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Spectrum, Barking Sycamores, HeART, Gravel, PrimalZine, Kaleidoscope, Open Minds Quarterly, and Wordgathering. She was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition.

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