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.
Hold steady . . . find your still point . . . get used to letting go . . .
I was pleased to by honored recently by the Hamden Arts Commission and the Hamden Symphony Orchestra for my poem “Circumstance.” The poem won second place in the first ever poetry award co-sponsored by both organizations. Also featured during the orchestra’s spring concert were fellow poets Meri Haray and Laura Alshul and the winners of the Young Musicians Concerto Competition. Listen:
I’m also trying out my new voice, mostly recovered from vocal cord paralysis. Work in progress.
At Musée d’Art Moderne
I notice the construct of silhouetted
stick figures juxtaposed above a door;
one’s triangular body tells me
to go into a different salle. There,
I find another version of graffiti
on the door in front of me as I sit down.
This is not art someone has written.
My bladder agrees, but against this angst
and all treachery of the world’s turmoil
another has revolted: Yes it is—
Art is what you make of it. Such words
delight me at first; they affect such openness,
pretend pluralism, and compel acceptance
of every sapling of discontent that arises
at seeing paint spread like entrails on the floor.
What you make of it . . . as if anyone could
wake and slither into anarchy and come out
with the paraphrase of a quail egg. I go out
and back to the exhibits, back to the violence
and spectacle of color and form. Seeking out
other dimensions, I walk into a room wrapped
in giant spools of gray, industrial felt.
At the end of one hall, a sculpture in straw
creates the illusion of an airplane; a thousand
pairs of scissors spear its shape. Art is
what you make of it? I need to go back:
digging into my bag and finding a pen
I scratch the last two words into blackness.
The poem is featured in Reconnaissance, published by Homebound Publications. For a signed copy (and free shipping), click the side menu and find “Purchase Signed Copies.”
Navigate to previous posts using the arrow on the right-hand-side menu.
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.
I am not a delicate flower. I am not
the likeness of a leopardess, I am the energy
of a tidal wave. I am the catastrophe of a raindrop.
I am an orchid, I am a lily. I am a life and
death without a mask. I am a fork and a forklift.
I am rubbish of apple seeds. I am mother, I am
earth, and when I speak, I call up windlessness
and ask its name.
~Journal excerpt from March 1992, featured in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, an exploration of my journey into an out of an encephalitic coma.
Pre-orders of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memoryhave shipped! To celebrate, here’s a snippet, teaser, foreshadow. The memoir chronicles the summer of 1992 when I slept in a “profound coma.” Leading up to that illness, I kept a journal–mostly ramblings of a first-year college student, a few loose drafts of poems, many musings on boredom and loneliness. Process work.
But looking back, there are passages that spoke with soothsaying eerieness. For example:
09 March: I found boredom to be sleepless
under a rock of drug induced comatose crustaceans.
This, I’m sure is also the place where the
meaning of life finds nutrients but alas, once
comatose always comatose . . . When I have
children I’m having them in my brain.
The journal entry is from March. In June, everything would shut down and become a blur. Read more . . . .
About two weeks to go until the official release of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory.
Though today is the last day of the month, my 30/30 journey of writing one poem a day for 30 days ended yesterday. Click here to review the month. Thanks to Tupelo Press for all their support, and a special thanks to all those who sponsored me with a donation.