Mapping Medusa, a list

Inside my body there are a lot of fat cells swimming around. My gynecologist once told me fat cells
made can never be unmade. She tells me this as a way to avoid cancer. But I think they are like
lichen after rain, or mushrooms, they sprout and sprout and sprout, little bits of tissue, dandelion
wisps flickering around.

In grad school I was not fully bloomed. My skin was not as thick or freckled. Then, there was the
feeling of sun on my skin then. Star time.

Did Medusa wonder about her skin once she grew snakes out of her head? Athena cursed her. Scars

During chemo, my tongue was sandpaper for months and now, maybe the whole of me is part
sandpaper, part waiting. All Medusa.

The liver is not largest organ in any body. It’s skin. Which does not so much feel like an organ as a
way to feel heat or the sun or grass after it’s rained for hours. I worry my skin is so stretched now it
won’t know how to stay in place. Taut and wide. There is a connection between breast and skin
cancer, or that is what the dermatologist said. I had a purple blot on my leg and wondered about
another tumor. No she said, it’s just veins that poke out as we age. My skin is a flowering field for
new things to grow.

Even after she was beheaded by Perseus, Medusa made stone of others without a body. Just a head.
Can my head be enough when there is so much stone in my body?

Sutured skin is rigid like rope pulled tight, that is what scars feel like anyway, or that is how my scars
feel when I run my index finger across them. Scars are not what happens on the surface of the skin.
They are buried deeper, like little bits of teeth in a cave.

I could be Medusa, a wilding woman reeking revenge for the way my skin has been burned.

There are places on my body that remain quiet mysteries, like a mouth frozen in a question or filled
with bees, almost ready to become something. But never becoming. Cancer made my body a new
form of scarring, not just for the red sludge of chemo but even for thoughts of pleasure afterward.

Scars are not just points of suturing. They can be whole stars still dying years later. I wonder if this is
what my body is now, a moving and dying galaxy. A planet, a universe of promises no longer
possible to keep.

My body is a place. Part of something beyond bone and age.

M. Soledad Caballero, a woman with long, gray hair is standing next to a stone wall. She is smiling, is wearing glasses, a white blouse with small black birds on it, and a silver necklace.

M. Soledad Caballero is a 2017 Canto Mundo and Macondo fellow nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Net Prizes. Her poem “Myths We Tell” won the 2019 Joy Harjo poetry prize for Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts. Her poem “Before an MRI: A Questionnaire” won SWWIM’s SWWIM-For-the-Fun-of-It contest in 2020. Her work has appeared in the Missouri Review, the Mississippi Review, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Memorious, the Crab Orchard Review, and other venues. Her first collection titled “I Was a Bell” won the 2019 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and was published by Red Hen Press in September 2021. “I Was a Bell” has won several post-publication awards including the 2022 gold medal for The Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award (one author/English) sponsored by the International Latin Book Awards.