Hold Still


poems by

Terry Godbey

ISBN: 978-1-59948-450-1, 72 pages, $14 cover price

Release date: March 4, 2014.

Hold Still was a finalist for the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award

TGodbey_PxHold Still is Terry Godbey’s fourth poetry collection. Her previous books are Flame, a chapbook published in 2012; Beauty Lessons, winner of the Quercus Review Poetry Series Book Award in 2009; and Behind Every Door, winner of Slipstream’s annual chapbook award in 2006. A winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she has published more than 130 poems in literary magazines including Poet Lore, Rattle, Slipstream, CALYX Journal, Harpur Palate and Dogwood. Her poem “Infusion Fridays” was performed by an actor in The Pink Ribbon Project at Orlando Repertory Theater. She lives in Orlando, FL, with her son and works as a writer at Darden Restaurants. Read more of her work at

Terry Godbey’s Hold Still finds its center of gravity in the poet’s experience with breast cancer. These finely made poems trace the narrative arc of illness – moving from the shock of diagnosis through treatment to the aftermath of survival, “everything alive,/ even hope.” Keenly aware that there is “much to measure” in this world, Godbey reminds us that one of poetry’s highest purposes is to revise trauma, and in her lines, “find what will save” us.

— Claudia Emerson, author of Secure the Shadow and Late Wife, winner of the Pulitzer Prize


In Hold Still, Terry Godbey surpasses all her previous prize-winning volumes, and we deepen with her in our reading of these poems. My favorite is her denunciation of the color pink in all its emanations, be they well-intended or hypocritical. Godbey’s poems, many of them about her battle with breast cancer, take us to the Infra-Red-Ultra-Violet Antipodes where the greatest works of literature reside and abide. There is no going back from them.

— Gerald Locklin, author of Deep Meanings


We are counseled in Godbey’s new book of poems to Hold Still, to slow ourselves and read through an account of experiences both harrowing and disturbingly common, distilled in such ironically poignant phrases as “bald is the new black,” and what she does for serious illness she also does for motherhood, and further back, surviving her coming of age in the barrier islands. These poems end with “everything alive,/ even hope,” but it is a hope forged in fire and cooled in wisdom.

– Carolyn Forché, author of Blue Hour and The Angel of History




It’s fashionable, the gleaming pate,
polish it, be proud, it shows
you’re kicking cancer’s ass.
Don’t waste your money
on a wig, they’re hot, they itch,
trust me, you’ll never wear it.
Turbans, hats, kerchiefs
are your friends. Here’s one
with a thicket of bangs attached,
and isn’t this clever,
a cap wagging a sleek ponytail.

Good ideas –
for someone else.

I don’t know who I am
without my wild mane,
shudder at each glimpse
of my cue ball head.
Only the walnut eyes
announce it’s me.
My son turns away,
reminds me bald is not
a good look for me.

I decide to forgo scarves
and contrivances,
which shout cancer,
find a flounce of a wig
that whispers normal,
makes me look
like myself.

Lots of women stagger
into the cancer center.
I admire their courage
and I’ll need plenty.
But let anyone see me bald?

I’ll never be that brave.




Not since high school
have so many people
been interested in my breasts.

The docs tilt their heads,
poke and stroke, admire
my scars. Not bad.
That’s not what people used to praise
about my nakedness
yet I’ve lost my modesty,
refuse a gown, lift my shirt –
it’s quicker that way.

But I am shy again
with these new people
prepping me for radiation.
They tug at my gown –
You TIED it?
raise the metal table and lean in
close, faces just inches from my breasts,
call out measurements,
slide me this way and that,
align me for the beams of photons.

Staying stock-still isn’t easy,
my body suddenly a hive of itches,
so I stare at a thin red light,
tell myself to meditate.
Another tech enters,
without prelude draws close
for a good, long look.
I worry my nipples are erect.
He pulls out his camera, starts clicking.
I’m not that kind of girl, I joke.

I’ll lie here exactly like this
each morning for the next
six and a half weeks. What I need
is a mantra:
         I’m not that kind of girl…
         I’m not that kind of girl…
         I’m not the kind of girl
         who gets cancer and dies.



A team plots damage
to my DNA, dots me
with blue marker
to outline radiation fields.

I prefer the pretty lie
painted on the wall –
clouds bruising
a summer sky,
scrawl of yellow swamp,
great blue herons
stepping lightly
beneath bald
cypress trees.

Hold still.
This will only hurt
a little.

I’m about to get my first tattoo,
an ugly dot,
then five more
so the linear accelerator
can zap my danger zones.

I never wanted a tattoo,
not even a sexy one.
Too permanent.

I’m not sure I know
what permanent means anymore
or hurt a little.

But hold still,
I understand.
I’m holding.

SKU: 978-1-59948-450-1 Category: Tag: