I am happy to announce the publication of my poetry chapbook, Brancusi’s Egg, from Finishing Line Press. The poems have been written slowly over many years, and written primarily for myself. I am an accidental poet. Until I began teaching creative writing as a healing modality to cancer patients and caregivers in 2001, I had written primarily fiction.
In 1995-6, a series of health and personal crises completely changed my world. Those who have followed this blog know that I became bedridden and unable to read and write for two years, although a novel of mine had been a finalist for national award only several years earlier. I had to learn to read and write all over again. When I was strong enough to work part-time, I offered to teach creative writing to cancer patients and caregivers at our local outpatient cancer clinic. Luckily, the director of the clinic was open-minded and agreed. Thus began my privileged work with others who were undergoing or had undergone the same type of “night-sea” journey that I was undergoing.
The poems here are primarily the result of doing the exercises I assigned to my patients. I had given up poetry long ago when a famous writer at a workshop I attended demolished my confidence as a poet. It was only as private exercises that I could see my way back to writing poetry—not solely as literature, but as a cry of the heart. I hope these poems reflect my ongoing attempts at both authenticity and art. Here is one poem from the book, “Lumbar Puncture,” which was included as a commended poem in The Hippocrates Prize anthology, 2011 :
I laugh while they do the puncture,
keeping up a steady stream of one-liners:
“Whiskey is my preferred pain killer” and
“don’t worry, if it hurts, you’ll know–
The whole place will know.”
I’m good at entertaining.
Relax, the doctor says.
Chris, the nurse, has her hands on me. They are warm.
I think of my dog at the vet’s, her eyes darting, frantic.
I am all animal, knees to chest.
The doctor counts my vertebrae.
I think of spare ribs, I think
of making a joke.
Chris shows me the four vials of spinal fluid.
Clear, like water,
but full of meaning some bio-magician will decipher,
predicting my future:
a gradual loss of muscle control,
wheelchairs, and being fed
like a child, or not—
just some anomaly in the brain,
this shadow, this lesion.
My husband reads an article, “The End of Physics?”
I glance at it, eyes glazing.
The world is full
of mysteries I do not understand.
I understand his passion,
but I don’t care
where the atoms are in the box.
Do you feel the energy? my PT says, and
I do. I feel the colors of my chakras;
sunlight makes sense to me,
dogs wrestling in it.
The part of my brain with the shadow on it
houses memory, language, emotions,
each function a Tarot card waiting to be turned.
Will I learn to understand physics without them?
St. Augustine had a dream. In it a small boy
tried to empty the ocean into his bucket.
The dream, the saint said, was a metaphor
for trying to grasp God with our minds.
The world is full
The world is full.