Atypical Cells of Undetermined Significance

by Brenna Womer

~~~***2017 Summer Tide Pool Selection***~~~

Brenna Womer’s debut collection Atypical Cells of Undetermined Significance is a book of creative nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid work that begins on an exam-room table and ends at the register of a 7-Eleven. In the pages between, Womer feels and hurts and learns her body and wonders at the world’s reactions to it. Her essays and poems exist in the liminal spaces approaching binaries: the childless mother, the loveless lover, the objective neurotic, and the military child whose heart aches for a home it cannot know. In this collection, Womer explores, in all the grit and gore and glory she can own, what it is to be—just one, but still—a woman




Weed smoked gone from rolling paper
down to roach paperclip.
He paperbound her wrists,
pushed inside, paper-sack deep.

Months and no wallpaper peeled and shed,
no toilet paper red, so she went
to the clinic.
Lobby waits with Marie Claire,
The View on mute;
not-today’s newspaper print.
She should’ve come sooner.
Leaned back on a fresh stretch of tissue paper,
a mobile overhead like a crib—
paper crane, paper tiger, paper plane.

The doctor asked okay, then paper cut.
Paperweight on paper plate;
she held the nurse’s hand.
In the recovery room, no vinegar
or brown paper bag, but a cookie
for the sugar in her glass-paper blood.
A friend drove her home to thick pads
papered over Hanes Her Way.



Brenna Womer is an absolute force on the page. With bold, incisive prose and frank clarity of voice, Atypical Cells of Undetermined Significance examines familial inheritance and self-determination and what it means to inhabit the female body on one’s own terms. This hybrid chapbook is essential and necessary, and a beautiful debut from an immensely talented writer.
-Anne Valente, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down

Atypical Cells of Undetermined Significance evokes a state of becoming: a journey marked by Ragu jars and crawdads, French Roast Folgers and Forever Blonde shampoo. Brenna Womer steps lightly between poetry and prose, offering a narrative at once tenderly personal and fiercely honest. What does it mean, she asks, to exist inside the fraught territory of a woman’s body? Her answers will twist around your heart, tighten to the pulse of I am, I am, I am.
-Allegra Hyde, Of This New World

In Atypical Cells, Brenna Womer writes about captured things: butterflies and crawdads, mothers and cervixes. She writes that her dad “was not used to telling me the hard things,” so she tells us herself. The constrictions that are hard marriage, hard Mason jars, hard examination tables at the doctors’ offices, and hard stances on soft bodies, are, through Womer’s glorious jail-key-turning sentences, what sets these butterflies, crawdads, mothers, and bodies free.
-Nicole Walker, Micrograms