This week, we are proud to offer a new poem by Leila Chatti. Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet. She holds an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University and is the recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Dickinson House, and the Quest Writers Conference. Her poems have received awards from Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Contest, Nimrod Journal, Southword Journal, and the Academy of American Poets, and appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015, Narrative, North American Review, Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, Southern Indiana Review, and elsewhere. Her website is www.leilachatti.com.
I was 22 when doctors discovered a pair of massive tumors in my uterus. They believed the tumors were an aggressive form of cancer—a sarcoma—and if they were, I could die, and if they weren’t, there was still a strong possibility I would never be able to have children. This health crisis lasted two years, during which I endured innumerable tests, consultations with multiple specialists, and two surgeries. The final surgery occurred a year ago, at which time I was given the all-clear. Since then, I have been obsessed with the duality of creation and destruction—how the body can create new life or destroy its own, and what it means to have one half of that balance taken away. I became, too, obsessed with my own creation. Creation myths have long been reserved for extraordinary things—gods, for instance, or the earth itself. But I wanted to examine my own creation; I believed, by mythologizing it, I made it important. It was my way of asserting my aliveness, of affirming myself as still here. I think I began writing these myths to feel some sort of control over my life—as if, by determining how I came to be, I might have some say in where I was headed.