Val Britton

Robert S. Pesich




Specimen manifests an infiltrating ductal carcinoma
composed of enlarged, pleomorphic cells with hyperchromatic
nuclei that in most foci form nests, strands of cells, but also
irregular ducts. Mitoses are frequent.

Specimen is graded:
III for architecture
II for cytology
III for mitoses

Not present at the surgical margins but
there is clear widespread angiolymphatic invasion.

Sentinel node is positive for metastatic carcinoma.
Additional lymph node submitted is negative.
IPOX-98-1026 studies show positivity for estrogen
and progesterone receptors.

Proliferation rate of 10% determined by Ki67 staining.

Low cerbB2/Her2neu.

2.0 x 4.5 x 4.8 cm

                   g t c a a a c a c c           a g t c a a g c a a           c t a a a a a g c t






Waking up       hungry

when did we last pray

and with what offering


In turbulence               wake
            to a changed itinerary

no longer safe but essential
baggage left behind      following us


in darkness      study  

lightning stitching absences
over burning cities


Even in descent
communication down
            the love story continues



Travel Advisory



How to travel
through white-out country
without erasing our name
without following the cracked free-
ways, instead the words
for the vast bridges
we can’t see

the immense dust storm
all around us now
and what was it
that old-timer asked
back at the border
what is the address
of our most recent birth

and what were we thinking
better not to outrun the storm
best be in it
taste the dust
graves in flight






Either way I’ll get cut. This morning the doctor drew a map on my chest
lines describing the incisions for me to see exactly. Everything will be removed.

Down to the muscle. And the axillary nodes out too. I’ll have drains -installed-
for a few weeks. Will this route give me more time? They say I can avoid radiation.

Reconstruction is possible but I don’t know. Beauty. You know, the usual shit.
Fuck it. So much gets in the way. And to address future pain and tightness?

They recommend I return to climbing and diving. To remodel the scars.
Sorry about the mirror. The girls still don’t know.

Please don’t tell them. I will. Soon.



Knot of Nine



By knot of one
Bathe with my children in the river

By knot of two
On the far bank           share my story

By knot of three
What stalks me           let it bite

By knot of four
Return naked through the forest we rarely visit

By knot of five
Eat from her                a handful of Pluteus
Acknowledge each question and koan scratching the skin

By knot of six
Remember what it was I asked for in the beginning

By knot of seven
Do not shut the door on the voice of the ghost

By knot of eight
Dream with you as in the beginning
Our bodies painted and bound with my menses

By knot of nine
Stone to ash and ash to wind              we sing



The map



hung in the school library, yellowing near a row of computers.
Every year a new monster or love affair quickly scribbled in its seas

its shorelines and borders no longer accurate. A month before the fires
the map gave up, slid to the virtual reality check-out desk

and out the window. It crawled back to JJ’s across the street.
Conversations into the night about basketball, water, surgery.

For a time, the lights were out but the music continued and
they were still serving. It woke up the next morning hung over

on the backseat of a Skylark, wind rushing through open windows
drying the whisky and coffee in its thin skin

someone’s new timelines scratched on its back, the last algorithm
erased to shades, room enough for scars to grow.






Use my knives. They are old but sharp.
Remember to cleanse the area before you begin

where with the tip of my tongue I drew
the symbols of my joys and griefs.

Remember how deep and at what angle to cut your-
self. Go ahead, try to fit all the edges together

perfectly but the new connectives can alter any form.
Bleeding, pack my ash deep into your wound-beds.

Protect and tend what you cut.
Know that the body rejects the foreign

but I will take root, remain as blue. Again rising
in the vines and blossoms you create

to pull yourself out of the well.



Val Britton

Val Britton was born in New Jersey and is based in San Francisco. She received her B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design and her M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. Britton creates immersive, collaged works on paper and site-specific installations that explore physical and psychological spaces. Her fragmented, exploded landscapes draw on the language of maps to explore memory, imagination, and the possibilities of abstraction. Britton’s work has been exhibited widely including shows at the San Jose Museum of Art, the de Saisset Museum, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Her public commission for the San Francisco International Airport is permanently on view. Her work can be seen at Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco.

Robert S. Pesich

Robert S. Pesich is the editor and publisher of Swan Scythe Press, President of Poetry Center San José and coordinator for The Well-RED Reading Series. Recent work has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Right Hand Pointing, The Redwood Coast Review, and Arsenic Lobster. He has received poetry fellowships from Arts Council Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and was thrice a Djerassi Resident Artist Fellow. Author of Burned Kilim (Dragonfly Press), his next collection of poetry Model Organism is forthcoming from Five Oaks Press. He works as a research associate for Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research and for Stanford University, Dept. of Infectious Diseases.