by Dr. Constantina Clark

Sometimes you’re called
to shed your skin,
the charred remains
of what you believe
defined you.

The long black braids,
twelve in number,
that perhaps you outgrew
when you weren’t looking
and not paying attention
simply got the best of you.

Now they need to be sacrificed
for a greater purpose,
the fight for your life.

Something else demanded
And would not be denied.

And so it entered.
Uninvited . . .
in order to reduce you
to ashes.

For how else could you
experience the mystery
of transfiguration,
without walking through the fire?
And how did you not know
that through relinquishing control,
you would find the philosopher’s stone,
a fresh phoenix egg, from which to hatch
into another dimension
of what it means to be human?

So she took the scissors
and snipped her braids
one by one,
shaving what was left,
a molten mass of dreadlocks,
stuck to a painful scalp,
until a terrifying beauty
emerged hairless,
but gloriously free
of all the trappings
that constrained her.

Slowly she lifted her newfound phoenix wings
still clinging to the ashes
from the initiation of doing
what must be done,
forged in the white-hot
inferno of life.

(Dedicated to Global Breast Cancer Warriors)

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