My poem Even Now was given to a fundraiser for breast cancer research and services. I had no idea at the time that this small act of charity would give me back so much.
‘a pocketful of sequins’ was produced and published by Moonstone Media run by Joanne Fedler, writer and writing tutor. After reading my poems Joanne encouraged me to apply for a residency at Hedgebrook, a women writers retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington. I read Hedgebrook’s website into the night – I wanted to go; too much. I didn’t think I stood a chance. http://www.hedgebrook.org
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38 and became an active volunteer post treatment. Years later, after ‘a pocketful of sequins’ was published I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A surgeon suggested that it was the result of the radiotherapy I’d received as treatment for breast cancer. Thyroid cancer treatment meant that I was radioactive and quarantined from the world for two weeks.
All alone I decided to prepare a submission to Hedgebrook. I sent in two essays and ten pages of poetry. When they offered me a cottage for six weeks, in 48 acres of woodland, orchard and organic gardens, fully catered free of charge, I was overwhelmed. That acknowledgement and generosity healed me within even as my cancer was pronounced incurable. The cancer is in my lungs.
When I returned from Hedgebrook I started growing fruit trees; they are now my lungs. The story of my journey to Hedgebrook was told in a show called Stories East and West along with five other storytellers. A film was made of my storytelling and was selected for screening at Sydney Fringe Festival. I was invited to be a special guest poet of the month by Live Poets Society and just last year, my urban orchard was featured on national television in ABCTV’s programme, Gardening Australia.
In ‘a pocketful of sequins’ I said that “I tread on this earth as lightly as I can to make the least impact – I hope that when I’m gone, people I know will only miss me as much as a warm evening breeze that once caressed their faces”. My poem Even Now is below but please consider purchasing the book – you never know what it might do for you.
‘a pocketful of sequins’ is available from Breast Cancer Network Australia.
http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4072376.htm – a video (4:33) on part of my urban orchard
Even the moon wanes
Even the sun sets
Stars ceased to glow
Tides recede and
Mountains slide into seas
Blossoms that scent the night
Shroud the earth by dawn
And the heat of fierce embrace
Fades in the glare of day
Yet birds go berserk every morning
Breaking their breasts with song
As mourning mists drift away
And the sun rises
Again and again
(c) Mary Tang 2015