Skip to main content



In honor of National Poetry Month, Lifetime Learning is featuring poems written by esteemed faculty during April.  The second poem in this series, “Where the Cancer Center’s New Wing Would Be,” is written by Debra Nystrom, Professor in the Creative Writing Program in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Ms. Nystrom is the author of four poetry collections, the most recent of which is Night Sky Frequencies: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press 2016).



Back into the world’s noise again– traffic, drill, siren muffled by wind
–not having to talk for a bit after hours of one blank
room and then another until finally the surgeon knocked
and shook our hands. We watched his wand
point out lit-up, cobwebby shadows, its arrow tracing
across the screen of her chest what might
be possible to remove, what might not be, and I thought,
trying to focus, of my grandma’s crocheted laces–
the one strand I got punished for, after unraveling
its loops from the hook, wanting just to see the vanishing of a thing
made so mysteriously from almost nothing anyway. Looking
up afterward at the sidewalk’s end– a glimpse between scarred buildings
that frame the empty space of old row houses taken down:
blue sky, thinning wisps of cloud, filaments of milkweed blown.

© Debra Nystrom first published in Blackbird May 2017


Debra Nystrom is the author of four poetry collections: A Quarter Turn, Torn Sky, Bad River Road, and most recently Night Sky Frequencies, New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2016). Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, Slate, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review and The American Poetry Review, and have been reprinted on Poetry Daily, The Writer’s Almanac and The Poetry Foundation’s American Life in Poetry. Nystrom is the recipient of the James Dickey Award from Five Points, The Virginia Quarterly Review’s Balch Poetry Award, the James Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah and The Virginia Prize for Poetry, and has been awarded fellowships from The Virginia Commission for the Arts and The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She teaches in the MFA Program at The University of Virginia.