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Guest post – Sisterectomy

August 15, 2010

Paul is otherwise detained at the Kempton Park Reptile Expo this weekend, so has handed his column over to poet and fellow Scot Carole Bone to talk about her poem Sisterectomy.


I’ve had a sisterectomy
There’s no wound
Or scar to show

No empty sleeve
To neatly fold and pin
In badge of loss

Elusive sibling ache
I carry it somewhere still
In head, in heart or gut

No scale can weigh its pain
No gauge can measure
The depth of its careless cut

Unhealed sorrow
Flows through blood
That once ran thick

Its devastation hidden
In fractured bonds
Of severed root and tribe

Dissection of a Sisterectomy

Writing poetry is a fairly recent pleasure for me, one I feel, that has lain within me waiting for the right time and conditions rather like a dormant seed waits for the light, warm, longer days of spring before the potential growth within is released.  Poetry appealed to me because it can, in just a few words or lines, give profound expression to the complexity of the human condition with great eloquence and sensitivity.

For me the desire to write came after some particularly trying events in my life.  Pam Blair, one of many wonderful and inspiring women who came into my life at that time, suggested writing my thoughts down as a way of clarifying them.  I found I enjoyed writing poetry in particular and under the guidance and advice of another amazing, formidable and inspiring lady, Anne Whitaker, I did a short course on writing poetry.  Anne is herself a talented writer and teacher and has been a great source of support, inspiration and encouragement to me ever since.

Words have always fascinated me.  Their sound, their shape and form on the page, how they feel in my mouth as I pronounce them.   Words can sooth, heal, wound, inspire, incite, arouse, anger, enlighten, amuse and confuse.  Sometimes we can feel words are not enough, that there are no words to describe how we feel and sometimes the simplest of words can affect us deeply, moving us to tears of joy or sorrow.  Words and our use of them can have powerful repercussions.

Sisterectomy is a poem about the loss of a sibling and the “ripple effect” such a loss can have.  The loss of people we love from our lives is something we all suffer at some point.  However life can have a strange synchronicity and at the same time I endured such a loss it seemed that many around me were also experiencing similar circumstances albeit not in the same way.  One friend lost a sister in a tragic road accident, another friend’s sister died after a long battle with breast cancer.  It seemed to be a theme of the moment and it became apparent that there were many ways one can experience the pain of losing someone.  One friend had a traumatic family rift in which her brother disowned her, causing much pain for all concerned.  Yet another had an older brother that had been a drug addict for many years.  Although she still saw him now and again the change in his personality and lifestyle meant she felt the loss of her bright, intelligent, carefree childhood friend and protector deeply.

In writing Sisterectomy the thought occurred to me that such loss is like having a part of you amputated.  Yet unlike an amputation there is no observable difference.  Unlike a physical amputation there is no obvious injury for anyone to see.  The damage and pain however, can run deeply, often affecting the very core of family root and tribe.

In Greek mythology the story of Chiron can help us to understand such painful experiences.  Chiron was the most learned of all the centaurs but suffers an accidental and fatal wound to his thigh from an arrow dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra.  Chiron is gifted healer himself but despite all his knowledge cannot cure the wound.  However because he is half-god and therefore immortal he cannot die.  The pain from the wound simply has to be borne.  The moral of the tale is that in learning to bear such wounds we gain wisdom, compassion and understanding, perhaps even become healers ourselves.

The healing journey may be painful but our fellow travellers and those we meet on the way can mean our experience of it also brings rich and unexpected rewards.

Sisterectomy is Carole’s second published poem and appeared in May 2010 in the Poetry Anthology 2010 published by United Press Ltd and appears here by kind permission.

  1. Kay Bigelow permalink
    August 15, 2010 10:41 am

    Thank you for publishing the poem and discussion about it. I have two sisters, one a few years younger and one quite elderly. While I know that I will lose my elder sister sooner rather than later, the abyss her absence will create will be deep and permanent.

  2. August 15, 2010 12:28 pm

    Hi Carole

    thank you for the personal mention here – it has been a great pleasure over the last decade (or more?!) gradually to observe your studies, reading and personal experiences coming together for expression through a medium for which you have demonstrated a real gift: poetry.

    Thank you not only for this powerful poem, but also for the compassion, sensitivity and wisdom which shine through the commentary.

    Keep on writing!


  3. August 15, 2010 2:14 pm

    A lovely poem, and an equally lovely comment. Nothing more to say as it has all been said, by you. But I find that I learn more about Chiron every now and then. ‘Chiron’ was the college publication (Claremont Teachers’ College, University of West Australia) where I was first published.

  4. Carole Bone permalink
    August 15, 2010 3:22 pm

    Kay – many thanks for your comment – the deep affection between you and both sisters is clearly expressed here and a thing to be cherished indeed.

    Anne – Thank you so much yet again for your encouragement and support. It has indeed been invaluable and also my pleasure to have had you as a teacher and a friend.

    Ian – thanks also to you for your comment, I am delighted you enjoyed the poem and the comment. Your observation on Chiron is very apt too as he was also a teacher, apt too that the learning is ongoing.

  5. wolfy permalink
    August 15, 2010 4:50 pm

    Interesting…love the word.

  6. Carole Bone permalink
    August 16, 2010 3:58 am


    Intriguing….love the comment.

    Many thanks – Carole

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