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Systems

March 31, 2010 Comments off

by Colleen Coyne

We have science and ways to make it make sense: circumstance and happenstance are ways to ward off exhaustion, ways to amplify it. Trust in cartography, ringed indefinitely. Measure circumference: almond, egg, pea? We work for it, work against the grain, fantasize about statistics. Cellular resistance. Defile the fillings in oldest teeth, metallic sheets. Start with the mouth and pull it all out. Then rosy-tipped lipids pinned to the chest. We wander far and wonder at the heads of our fathers preserved in ice — making the rounds every day, tending to the suspension. Excessive growth. We have ways to process progress. Retract the lawn, the fake grass pounded down by tools and hands crusted with dust, washed in mud. Drippings, meat from bone. Go through the motions of intimation, the notes we send ourselves, returned postage-due. Irregular margins. Names on a wall, names engraved in stone, names that remain and multiply when we spin the globe.


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Colleen Coyne lives in Minneapolis, where she is an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat and Pebble Lake Review, and she is the current Editor-in-Chief of dislocate.

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Visiting the Burn Unit

March 30, 2010 4 comments

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

for jJ

1

Who hasn’t been seduced by a campfire,
its lust for oxygen,
its lick, its hiss, its color-coded heat.

But that’s not this story.

Put on a gown and gloves before you enter the patient’s room.
If you leave, even for a moment, put on a new gown and new gloves when you return.

This story is bare feet in the street
and nothing in your hand
but a remote mistaken for a phone
when you woke to flames eating the kitchen
and the power out —

Behave as each staff member requires you to behave.
This goes for the patient also.

My cat! Find my cat! you begged the firemen.

Do not allow the patient to drink water.
She needs calories to rebuild her skin.

Lisken, you say, as if confiding a secret: the flames
were beautiful.

Patient can aid healing by elevation and movement.

You dance with your hands in the air.

2

Face blotched with blisters and raw skin,
hair shaved back and singed,

Patient has mid- and deep-dermal burns
over approximately 18% of her body (using rule of nines);

both arms swathed like a mummy’s in white gauze.

Patient will require hospitalization, debridement
of devitalized tissue, and possibly skin grafts.

Knowing nothing, I was braced for worse.
Still —

Patient should be monitored for burn wound conversion:
it may be a week or more before the wounds fully reveal themselves.

As if the fire were still smoldering in your flesh.

3

Back home, I climb Monument Mountain
to a view of parallel ridges,
a horizon announcing elsewhere.

Do not expect us to explain everything.

I am out of breath.

It will take time for us to know everything.
It may also be in your best interests not to know everything.

So much existence at once.

Do not say burn victim. Say burn survivor.

My eye focuses further and further.
You are far to the west.

Beautiful, you’d told me: the colors,
and on such a scale.


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Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published this year by Pudding House Press.

Categories: Health Tags:

Breathing

March 29, 2010 2 comments

by Brent Goodman

A guy like me could get used to this:
wild blueberries in my oatmeal,
living room futon naps with the cats.
I finally don’t need much more than this —
no smoke, no drink, off work, daily walks.
I’m your healthy heart attack hippie
baking chick pea burgers with walnuts,
getting high on green tea and good books.
I’ll admit I’m bored a bit. Goodbye.
We say nothing for hours, breathing.


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Brent Goodman (blog) is the author of three poetry collections, most recently The Brother Swimming Beneath Me (2009 Black Lawrence Press). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Zone 3, Gulf Coast, Court Green, and elsewhere.

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Salamba Sirsasana 1 — Headstand

March 26, 2010 Comments off

by Robbi Nester

The moon swells like a seedpod.
Inside the quiet studio, I take
my aching head into my hands,
fingers web to web. A breath,
and then this awkward frame
ascends, becomes an aspen
flexing in a nonexistent breeze.
Grounded in air, movement merges
with stillness, my ear a vehicle
for surging tides, the galaxies’
faint hum. Everywhere
and nowhere, the worlds
fall away, balanced
on these two arms.

 

Robbi Nester headstand


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Robbi Nester teaches composition classes to mostly unwilling freshmen at Irvine Valley College in Irvine, California, and blogs at Shadow Knows. This is one of a series of poems on Iyengar yoga asanas.

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Thick Socks

March 25, 2010 1 comment

by Sara Parrell

I

How many times did my mother remind me
I must wear socks?
Thin white anklets inviting patent leather to church.
Rolled bobby socks dating laced tennies–
older sisters taught me the look.
My dresser drawers never knew the shape and heft
of thick socks. When I grew older and began
to walk the earth, my feet asked their questions:
How high to the peak?
How deep into river’s current, into sand
below the current? How many times
up and down the barn’s steep stairs?

How fast to the edge?

II

Yesterday I asked the Holy Ghost for thick socks.
My feet were sore and cold from the climb.
My right great toe buzzed numb,
icy pain shot round the heel.
No one arrived in the evening to wash my feet
carrying a red basin in his arms,
a white cotton towel thrown over his shoulder.
No one asked me to sit upon the rock and dangle
throbbing feet into warm water
drawn from springs. Flesh-and-blood-man
stayed away, night air kept me from sleep.
I called another to care for me,
my own blurred vision, my own red tongue
licking the wind. Wash my feet, I asked.
Dry them like infants, swaddled, kissed.
Stretch a thick sock onto each foot, covering toes,
arc of knowing, heel of memory, thin ankle,
pull it onto the leg like tomorrow.

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Sara Parrell was awarded first prize in the 2008 Poetry Center of Chicago’s Juried Reading; Dancing Girl Press published a chapbook including her winning manuscript for the reading. She also won the Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine’s 2007 poetry contest. Her work has appeared in the Lake Wingra Morning anthology, Nocturne (a collaboration with photographer and musician Thomas Ferrella), the Wisconsin Academy Review and other journals. As a pediatric nurse she has practiced and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. More recently, she works with children in the public schools. She lives with her husband Grayson Kampschroer in Madison, Wisconsin.

Categories: Health Tags:

Here’s To My Legs

March 24, 2010 2 comments

by Marjorie Saiser

Here’s to my knees, especially the left one
and the small grating sound it makes,
when I lie on the beach and bicycle it above me,
slow in the sun.

A blessing of sorts on my ankles, which are thick
(I refuse to curse them anymore)
and do not forget the fat sleek toes,
nails painted red, those shameless cowgirls.

Here’s to shins playing straight man to the calves.
Thighs browning, shiny with oil.
Let the bottom of each foot
have its time on hot sand.

Let the feet take all the body to the water,
let the legs look around below sea level, let them
kick, cavort, mislead;
let the ocean have them for its one split tongue.


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Marjorie Saiser’s books are available from Backwaters Press. Saiser was named Distinguished Artist in Poetry in 2009 by the Nebraska Arts Council, and part of that award will be publication of a new book of poetry in 2010. Samples of her work can be found on her website.

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Diogenes Syndrome

March 23, 2010 Comments off

by Maureen Jivani

He balances his Gladstone amongst her heaps of Time,
National Geographic, Liberator, asks, ‘How do you feel?’

She’s thinking, I like the blackness of the print,
finding insurgency at my wrists, numbness at the tips
of my index fingers, how images sometimes centre
themselves inside my palms, a peace demonstration
in Hyde Park, a black Raleigh bicycle propped against a rail,
the politician’s clenched fist, faces of the dead, or
bluebell woods…

He examines her study, the paper hands
which she faithfully cut
and stuck to the floors, walls, ceilings and panes.

She says, ‘They hold my house up.’


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Maureen Jivani lives in Surrey England and has worked for the National Health Service for over twenty-five years. She has a pamphlet (chapbook) and a full collection of poems out with Mulfran Press.

Categories: Health Tags:

Psych Ward

March 22, 2010 4 comments

by Dorianne Laux

It was yellow linoleum, the kind that curls up at the corner,
so if you’re sleepy and still in your hospital robe and slippers
or watching (while walking) the TV hung from an iron armature,
chains hanging down in loose smiles over the common room,
you might trip. We stepped over the lifted, glue-battered lip
each time we went for the corner shot nearest the wall, an ass
bumped up against the back of the couch, brushing a banded
or bandaged wrist aside with a thigh. The trick was to hold
the cue at a 45 degree angle to the table and not nick the felt.

And so what could we do between med times but play pool
on the table with one short leg and a bald patch, someone
fresh from an ice bath holding up a wall, head wrapped
in a towel, mumbling when one ball kissed another
which scooted over to kiss a third which plugged
the 8 ball in? We were not friends. We were zombies
who passed the salt if we felt like it, if we weren’t too busy
shoveling the muddy pudding into our mouths. You didn’t
look across the table and think “That’s my sister” or see
the boy sitting in his own shit and offer a hand. You stayed
as far away from each other as was humanly possible
in that place, that impossible place.

You nodded politely to the man with snot tangled in his beard,
to the woman with eyes like burned out bulbs who blubbered
all night, having full-blown conversations with her family—
you could tell their voices apart in the dark. Someone always got
“agitated”, stomping around the perimeter of the day room,
pounding a fist into a thigh, and though they made us cut
our gray meat with plastic knives and doled out matches
one at a time, the nurses somehow trusted us with those
lethal weapons, nitrocellulose balls and rock-maple sticks.

And we never once hurled one at a fellow crazy, cracking open
the hell-bowl of a skull, never shoved a rod into a bile-filled gut.
When they let us play pool we felt normal: the smoke, the faux
gilt rack, the soft click when the powdered tip hit the cue ball’s
spotted white eye, the wagering with cigarettes, the swaggering,
spitting and lying, quietly admiring the smooth bank shot
that cleanly anticipated the table’s wobbly tilt.


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Dorianne Laux (website) spent a short time in her teens at a mental hospital in San Diego, California called Mesa Vista. She learned to play pool on the table with one short leg and consequently cannot play pool on a regulation table. Otherwise, she’d be quite a shark. She also published her first poem in the Mesa Vista newsletter put out by the teenaged patients. Author of four books of poetry, the latest of which is Facts about the Moon, she’s a Professor at North Carolina State State where she teaches poetry to young people.

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Advice from the Robot Scientist’s Daughter

March 19, 2010 3 comments

by Jeannine Hall Gailey

After all, the moon has fallen asleep and you are alone. Try to see with my vision: the breaking of membrane, the fragile fruit withering, embryos curling within eggs. Living beings so friable, so prone to overgrowth and imbalance. Organic and inorganic: inside the rose petal, a blue skeleton. Remember, after all, that we can incinerate or incubate; that your atoms right now are smashing against the atoms of your chair. What is keeping you together? The pull of the moon, the arms of a lover, the gravity of cherry to cherry stone. Keep from being broken apart. Keep things from being broken apart. Gather together: thyroid, womb, heart. Build a nest. How, right now, can we avoid the rays that seek to destroy at a molecular level? Now I understand the sea, the great embrace, water and light moving in a wave formation. Keeping it all together.


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Poems from Jeannine Hall Gailey’s first book of poetry, Becoming the Villainess, were featured on The Writer’s Almanac and in Verse Daily, and two were included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror for 2007. Her poems have appeared or are upcoming in The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner and Ninth Letter; her essays, reviews and interviews have appeared on Poets & Writers online, the Poetry Foundation web site, and in The American Book Review. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches at the MFA program at National University. Visit her website.

Categories: Health Tags:

After James Tate

March 18, 2010 1 comment

by Martha Deed

I don’t like knives, Sam said to his wife
on the morning of her minor surgery
to remove a thingy from her neck.

Sam’s wife contemplated her response for twenty minutes.
She was a devotee of James Tate and had heard him say that his poems took a long time to write, because he had to wait twenty minutes for each new line.

The twenty minutes came and went.
None of the immediately obvious responses
would seem to fit the current situation:

But you use a knife to carve the Thanksgiving turkey
shave your chin
remove a splinter
excise bindweed from your garden

This is what she wanted to say,
but she did not. Her silence
a testimony to the weakness
of her poetics this October morning.

The point is
it is the obscure, clever,
mind-piercing response
that is required
the stranger the better
and bindweed does not even come close

but Sam had not completed his disquisition
I do like Boy Scout knives
and fish knives
and even Swiss Army knives
although the latter are a bit
too much like quiche
which I eschew, he said

as Sam’s wife
the woman with no name
continued to meditate on James Tate
What would the Poet say here
she wondered
Is it fatal that James Tate a man
perhaps would not respond as she
a woman would
under such complicated circumstances?

This gender issue would haunt her for the next hour.


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Martha Deed (website, blog) is a retired psychologist who makes trouble with poetry inspired by crises and other mishaps around her house on the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda, NY. Recent publications include her chapbooks, 65 x 65 and #9, and an e-book, Intersections, a 20-day journey of the unexpected. Recent poetry publications include: Iowa Review on the Web (with Millie Niss), Unlikelystories.org, Poemeleon, New Verse News, Dudley Review, Helix, The Buffalo News and many others.

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