Tears come down wet, whether in fear, grief, delight, or gratitude.
Read my latest essay, “Failing Feet and Finger Lakes” in the autumn issue of Fired Up! Creative Expression for Challenging Times.
My poem, “Lucifer Falls, New York,” was also inspired by the gorges and trailheads near Cayuga Lake. What’s the connection between poetry and prose? Read more about the lines between them in my essay from Re-Imagining.
Like war planes, a crowd
of raptors scull through the blank
and cloudless sky. One
after another, they stream
over the open paddock
of midsummer green, advance
toward a still and speechless
line of trees. Their portents
reach the forest’s door; needles
of pine brace between hard clay
and treachery. The bone black jaw
of a red-bellied snake ruins
a toad’s last chance for escape.
He is in the middle of it now,
like the fawn whose femur lay
furloughed in the gorge,
trespassing on the slick ink
of river-smoothed black rocks.
“Lucifer Falls, New York” appears in Reconnaissance, published by Homebound Publications. This collection and my memoir The Comet’s Tail are both available wherever books are sold, especially at Homebound’s online store. Support Indie Presses and shop Small Business Saturday.
Thanks to poet Cortney Davis for her review of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory posted in LitMed: Literature Arts Medicine Database sponsored by NYU Health. This is an excellent database which curates the human condition. Cortney’s poetry collection Taking Care of Time is also featured on LitMed. I’m proud to be included as one of the featured authors. Here is an excerpt:
This little book (little both in page numbers and in its 4×6 inch dimension) is a beautifully written contemplation not only of what happened to the author’s memory during and after illness, but of memory itself, its twists and turns and mysteries. Is memory reliable? Nawrocki notes how the memories of family and friends sometimes didn’t jive with the official documents: “I toggle between the subjectivity of other people’s memories and the objectivity of chest x-rays and EKGs” (page 27). And if eleven people write about an event are they all telling the same story? “At least eleven people tell the story of Amy on June 18th when I arrive in ‘soft restraints'” (page 19). At book’s end, the author writes, “Memory is a thing; remembering is an action, ongoing” (page 46). In these pages she gives us a wonderful story, a memory of a time with no memory, in poetic language, with compassion and eloquence.
In other news, The Comet’s Tail was awarded the Mind Body Spirit Gold Medal from Living Now Book Awards, which celebrate the innovation and creativity of newly published books that enhance the quality of our lives.
Purchase a copy of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory at Homebound Publications, Amazon, or your favorite independent bookseller.
“I’m looking for a soap dish. . . . ” This is how I begin “Giving up the Chokehold,” an essay about searching and about finding. What I find first is a necklace, actually a bunch of them, “chokers I haven’t worn in years.” One, is woven into a braid, “a thin zig-zag, like trim binding from an old sewing kit. I try this one on. As it’s supposed to, it chokes me.”
Scars, no matter where they lie on our bodies or if we can see them, have a way of silencing us with their visibility. At the very least, they shape who we are. Sometimes we wear them as badges of pain; sometimes we wear them as badges of victory. How to get from one endpoint to another is what that found necklace helped me discover.
When I think back on it, most of the time spent on cover-ups and self-consciousness is rooted in a worldview that I’m not ashamed to hold. There are others in the world whose scar stories are much more heroic. I don’t think my story is heroic because everyone has scars . . .
Hear the full account, here
“Giving up the Chokehold” picks up about 28 minutes into the third part of the Episode One of The Vanguard Podcast.
It’s been over twenty-five years since I wrote these lines:
The doctors invited me to be still.
Then the X-ray revealed
one of van Gogh’s sunflowers
dying inside me, just beneath my ribs.
Not enough sun, they said,
prescribed antibiotics and suggested
lemon juice to ease the pain.
A few of the remedies worked; stillness came, then awakening. Just beneath my ribs, the sunflower lives, and so does the everpresent need to be still, to suggest bright petals and brave possibilities. Thanks, Vincent for this yellow.
Just released, the first episode of The Vanguard Podcast featuring writers David K. Leff, Katherine Hauswirth, and me, along with musician Lys Guillorn. Join these conversations at the Forefront of Creativity with hosts L.M. Browning and Kelly Kancyr.
See also The Vanguard Podcast to subscribe (or listen on iTunes, YouTube, and more).
This episode includes a conversation between me and L.M Browning about my poetry, teaching, my inspiration for writing, and finding my way into prose. My essay “Giving Up the Choke Hold” is a tangent to The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, so I’m excited the podcast is available now. Both start at about the 19-minute mark.
Here’s a poem from Reconnaissance to celebrate The Vanguard Podcast’s release.
what a line looks like
on a page, I unwrap
a notebook and tune
to Charlie Parker. If I Should
Lose You, wait for the record,
metal now and shiny,
to hiccup into
its grooves. Scattered
over an unseen stave of five
parallel lines, the blue
narcotic notes from
a saxophone scatter
in a wind tunnel.
In my latest book, The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, I ponder the nature of memory–what we remember, what we forget, how our identities are built by and shaped by memories. While I can’t recreate any single memory into a perfect film of the past, I can stare at the open sky of existence, trace the collective particles, and sculpt them into meaningful shapes.
A review of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory is just out from New Pages. Here’s an excerpt. Please click the link below to read more.
“. . . memories and un-memories push against each other throughout the text, the tension between them driving the narrative and forming some of the book’s most vital and memorable moments.”
The Sky’s Version of Truth
So what about the laziness
of light, taking its sweet old time
getting to the eye. The sky
having no reason to be false
teaches memory, a peek
of what old people must have seen:
Cassiopeia learning to dance, Orion
earning his bow, Taurus deciding
to charge. A navigator’s dream.
What the eye catches is an old light.
What we rely on most is thriftiness.
Whatever speed it takes,
the open road is just dotted lines
a tree’s last goodbye to summer,
just lament. It’s a different kind
of blindness—seeing too much
seeing with the heart, light alone
or a blade of grass.
Loving the blindness, the eye sees a pattern:
the round dome of sky,
the traffic of night, ad infinitum.
Connect the dots the sky is saying.
I see a banjo, the spokes of a wheel,
the claw of a crow catching me. Maybe
a duck-billed platypus playing the trumpet.
I can almost hear a star’s last sigh.
Perhaps legacy is spelled out
the way memory returns to you
so many years later: you remember
the leaves, the rain, the sound
of a breath stopping three rooms away.
This poem appears in Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010. Order your signed and personalized copy here.
Losing the Summer
Winter enters the body and it collapses,
the blood cells attack, the fever leaves
the brain with its patterns of coils
and discs like a red stovetop,
an alphabet of rivers and branches.
This landscape, contoured for activity, settles
into animal hibernation,
while remnants of ancient languages howl
from the hospital monitor.
Like dried sap on a tree,
crusted, yet viable, a small scar has left itself
after the coma – such a thing is not
a deformity, but a bud:
a seed replanting its succulence,
an isthmus back to the world.
Come see me at Byrd’s Books on Sunday, June 3rd for a Book Club discussion of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, which chronicles that lost summer. “Losing the Summer” is from Four Blue Eggs, which was a finalist for the 2013 Poetry Prize from Homebound Publications. The 2018 Poetry Prize is now open for submissions.
I have to admit that before the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport Connecticut invited storytellers to participate in their first PechaKucha night, I had no idea what PechaKucha was. It’s simple to describe: a slide show of 20 slides which progress through 20-second intervals–so a story in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. More than the slideshow, PechaKucha is an opportunity to gather with others and share. Developed by an architecture firm in Japan, PechaKucha translates loosely into “chit-chat” in Japanese. It’s taken off worldwide and the U.S. is starting to catch up.
I was happy to participate as the Barnum Museum hosted its first (of many) PechaKucha nights earlier this month (May 9). I told the story of how writing helped me recover from a coma–a story that I share in more depth in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory.
Annotating the Self: Writing and Recovery (or click the image below)
I’ll be at Byrd’s Books again on Sunday, June 3rd for a Book Talk about The Comet’s Tail. Support your local independent bookstore and join us.
From Little Bound Books and Homebound Publications: The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory.
About the book:
I do not remember the tubes, the tests, or the icy cold of space.
I do not remember losing six months of my life.
At age nineteen, Amy Nawrocki returned from her first year of college, scribbled a few notes in her journal, and took a terrifying summer trip. She remembers one night of disorientation, then nothing until Christmas, when awareness slowly restarts. The Comet’s Tail is the story of these missing months: the seizures and fever spikes, the deep nothing of coma, and the unexpected, dramatic recovery. Memory is recreated around EEG transcripts and doctors’ notes, family vigils and blurry Polaroids. From her unique perspective, Nawrocki investigates the connections between memory, trauma, and identity. She illuminates what it means to truly return to consciousness in this extraordinary memoir of illness, healing, and writing over the blank pages of our lives.
Here are a few lines from my first college journal (blog exclusive)–a college girl’s perception of herself, nine months before the galaxies would close (for a while):
I’m cold. I’m lonely. I’m an elephant in a supermarket. I need, I need, I need. I’m a very selfish person. I’m so inefficient. I can’t do anything. I think I’ll write a poem now. Drink lots of coffee, and be a night owl tonight and write a brilliant essay about Achilles, godlike swift runner. . . . . I’ll look for that wacky pigeon again — the half dove, what a shame to be half a dove.