The First Radical Mastectomy

Linda Arnold


                        Dr. Wilhelm Fabry on Auxiliary Dissection

                                Dusseldorf, Germany    August 6, 1601



She did not beg her physician husband

to attend the lecture.

Her infant’s milk

malaised a misshapen mass.


Pain pressed patronage.


Indignant.  The embroidered chemise,

slipped over her shoulder,

exposed her disease

nothing more.

Dr. Fabry smiled,

unmasked, unwashed;

the family dog settled under foot.


Her husband held down her elbow.


With forceps, Fabry-forged,

the doctor fettered the malady.  And severed.

Twisting, shrieking,

she, a spiritual woman,

refused even a sip of Schnaps.


Tendering knots of tumors,

Dr. Fabry razored them out.

Blood soaked the embroidery,

the feather bedding.  Shocked,

as the fireback seared the soaking,

her husband fainted.


She pulled the linen over her shoulder.


“I am well now.”


Dr. Fabry bowed to her stoicism;

five months later, bowed to her passing.

Five centuries now, good doctors continue to bow.




Linda Arnold’s poetry has appeared in Mindprints, Heartlodge, Poetic Realm, The Oleander and The Master’s Hand: Reflections on Rane.    She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.