Open Letter Essay

timer Asked: Dec 20th, 2018
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This assignment requires you to write an open letter in which you use a work of fiction, literary non-fiction or a

poem or poems in the Survive and Thrive Anthology (The Book Attached) to address an issue that

concerns you, your friends, and/or family. This should be 1000-2000 words. Please take a look at the assignment first before bidding. Thank you very much!

Essay # 4: An open letter in which you use a work of fiction, literary non-fiction or a poem or poems in the Survive and Thrive Anthology to address an issue that concerns you, your friends, and/or family. “By interpreting literature we get to understand the basic conflicts of the human heart and mind for all of us. A story or poem can be an open letter to each of us if we recognize ourselves and those we care for in them.” -- anon Write a 1000 to 1200 word open letter that you address to the author in which you use a work of fiction, literary non-fiction or a poem or poems from the Survive and Thrive Anthology to explore an issue involving trauma in families and family life. The letter need not be about your family (although our families are always sites of emotional upheavals) but it should be a family that you know well enough, either through experience or study, to recognize a family conflict that has resulted in trauma for the family members. According to Wikipedia, “an open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally. [1] Open letters usually take the form of a letter addressed to an individual but provided to the public through newspapers and other media, such as a letter to the editor or blog. [2] Especially common are critical open letters addressed to political leaders” ( You may use the fiction or poetry to introduce the issue or use fiction or poem to help you interpret the family conflict you are exploring -- works like Frankie Condon’s in the Anthology, in which she writes about taking care of her mother through an extended illness, are good examples of entry points into understanding conflicts. An example of an open letter: (This is an emotional letter and deals with family trauma. Remember that you do not have to write about highly personal things, but notice the impact of the letter. ) Checklist: • • • • • The writer used a work or works from the anthology to highlight or explain a conflict and emotional upheaval in a family. The writer’s treatment of the conflict is authentic, whole, and empathetic (validates the experience of others. Also, see syllabus as to the criteria for AWE) The writer shows an awareness of how the particular situation has implications for a general audience. The letter is free of distracting usage errors. The writer cites the sources consulted in exploring and interpreting the family conflict.
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For information, please call or write: 1-800-586-0330 Fountainhead Press Southlake, TX 76092 Web site: E-mail: ISBN: 978-1-59871-621-4 Printed in the United States of America Table of C onTenTs Preface ix i. contexts for our GatherinG here 1. What The Service Costs Us, and Why We Pay It Debbie Gillquist 3 2. Of Sparks and Scourges and Second Chances Keith Lurie 6 3. Be an Artist or Die rex Veeder 9 4. Two Stories About Stories Jimmy santiago Baca 10 1. Get it BeatinG or GrieVe 1. What Our Hearts Are Jeana strong 17 2. Full Post carol allis 18 3. Addicts and Angels carol allis 19 4. Emergency Medical Services Brad isberner 21 5. Starting and Staying in the Profession of EMS: A Personal History o.J. Doyle 23 6. Holey Heart Leslie council 27 iii 7. During A Sudden Cardiac Arrest rex Veeder 28 8. Survive and Thrive: It Starts with the Heart—Marques A spoken word poem: Marques McLothan 30 9. Gate of Mercy steve Klepetar 32 10. One of Those Stories steve Klepetar 33 11. Be The Change Leslie aguillard 12. Abduction Grant haake 34 35 13. waiting for surgery III Wendy Brown-Báez 37 14. On North Pleasant Donna salli 38 15. Proper (Re) Identification Pam secklin 39 2. the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 1. Medicalarium alberto rios 45 2. A Poem From Phoenix Linda Zoucha 48 3. Mountains to Move Leon Laudenbach 49 4. She Must Have Two Hearts Leslie council 50 5. Sometimes I Forget Megan Macnamara iv 54 6. Today I Got the Flu Brian Baumgart 55 7. You Gotta Have Hair sara Wedeman 56 8. Simply Not The Same As Easy Leslie aguillard 62 9. Common Ground Mary Willette hughes 10. Regret frances condon 63 65 11. A Mother’s Truth Mary Willette hughes 70 12. Come Humble Sinner Jason Lewis 72 13. Quieter Jeff carmack 81 14. cursive mermaid ink aksania xenogrette 83 15. After Birth Brian Baumgart 85 16. “I had forgotten how it felt walking on the beach after a hurricane” Leslie council 87 3. a heart’s reason for BeatinG 1. If You Do This Work rex Veeder 91 2. Truth Through Fiction Jessica Lourey 94 3. Hope carol allis 99 4. Safe Wendy Brown-Báez 100 v 5. From Amy Lam Wai Man’s Installation Piece “Ancient Blood Works” Donna snyder 101 6. Healing Power of a Letter steve tuytschaevers 102 7. Mi Corazón Denise VanBriggle 8. Graylock Joseph Bruchac 104 105 9. Tutuwas Joseph Bruchac 107 10. Give Thanks Jeana strong 108 11. The EKG Wendy Brown-Báez 111 12. When I Laugh Hard I Feel Like I Will Live Forever John Jodzio 112 4. Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 1. A Poem for Brandon while you’re waiting rex Veeder 117 2. Teaching by Moving the River Home Jimmy Baca 118 3. My Bandaged Place Denise VanBriggle 121 4. Telling Stories, Writing Poems francis e. Kazemek & Jerry J. Wellik 123 5. The Museum Heart alberto rios 127 6. Sonia Sanchez and Paulo Freire Have Coffee Jeff carmack 128 vi 7. Journaling Is My Medicine (and It Can Be Yours) Barbara stahura 129 8. Sharkskin Journal Llana Livingstone 131 9. New Fire Mary Willette hughes 135 10. The Doctor vs. the Pre-Med Student Jim reese 137 11. Write Brain audrey shafer 138 12. Lesson Plans and Prompts Molly starkweather and Michael MacBride 13. Reflections on Teaching Molly starkweather , Michael MacBride 142 145 contriButor BioGraPhies 155 vii viii PrefaCe W hen i came back to the world after my sudden cardiac arrest, i had no idea at all that i would be practicing a discipline of healing for the rest of my life. there are physical, emotional, social, and spiritual reverberations to “going down.” i think i, like many who survive a sca, thought i would be returning to a life that no longer existed—thought i would be normal again. it doesn’t work that way. Mainly, upon returning to the world a survivor of sca, or any other traumatic event that shuts body and mind off, begins to make life all over again from the fragments of the past and the realities of a body, mind, and soul that include the loss of who we were. We can no longer find ourselves but find instead we must invent who we are and live up to that invention. the data for sca and survival are startling. Between 300,000 and 400,000 die of it every year in the u.s. of those suffering a sca outside of the hospital, the survival rate nationally averages 5%. of that 5%, about half have neurological disabilities. i was lucky. first, my wife knew cPr and went to work on me almost right away. second, we lived in st. cloud, where Dr. Lurie and the heart and Vascular center had established a system for sca. i got the full treatment, i think, including being cooled to protect me from brain damage. During the months and then years following the incident, i went through what has been described as a reboot. When the brain shuts down the body has to reboot, and unlike a computer the reboot is not necessarily sequential, meaning that the harmony of mind, body, and spirit is disrupted. those who recover from sca and other traumatic events involving the brain often have their personality altered, experience PtsD, constantly negotiate the interaction and side effects of medicine, try to maintain a semblance of normalcy, and be in a society that may see nothing wrong with them. as one Dr. explained it, “You were hit with a Mac truck, but it doesn’t show.” for me, the biggest immediate challenge was what i came to call text terror. i simply froze when i had to read or write. every fundamental gift of literacy required tremendous effort. i would sweat and tremble to write a sentence or read a page. i was still an english teacher. i was in fact a Vice President at a university and later at a community college. My way back from text terror is for me an example of “survive and thrive.” i started studying painting and began to practice sumi-e, painting with ink. over ix a period of a few months i painted over 250 paintings and had begun to write poems on them. they were throwaway paintings and poems. i had no plans to show them at the time. at any rate, the engagement with visual art, and later music, began to help me rewire, so to speak, and i was moving from surviving to thriving. there are two fundamental human emotions driving us in this anthology: suffering and joy. there is also a lot of anger and a sense of calm resolution to be found here. the patient i think, at least in our present society, often sees herself or himself as frankenstein’s monster. We are created from science and often are alive because of some sophisticated gadget or medications concocted in secret laboratories. Like henrietta Lacks, we are somehow fragile and perishable while at the same time somehow immortal. We fear i think that the villagers will hunt us down, or that our Dr. frankenstein will betray us. i also know that physicians and care givers struggle with their self image, at times sensing the god like qualities of the healer and others the fear that they are peddling snake oil. Medical professionals too must be healthy, efficient, and in control. they fear failure and shame on a daily basis because they are human beings. human beings are not perfect or terribly efficient. our society is as health aware as it is skinny aware. a healthy body image eventually has a perfection we can see in ads for all the consumer goods that are intended to make us hungry to be sexy and strong, vibrant, and wanted. if we do not live up to that image and proceed in society with the efficiency demanded, we fear rejection and abandonment on the ice flows or on the desert. or, we will be cast out by our community and like outcasts in many societies ignored—a death in life. there are, therefore, many analogies and metaphors of monsters here. there is considerable anger. there is also deep resolution, joy, and a sense of accomplishment. While working with artists, writers, eMs providers, scientists, and health care Providers, i have found many who realized that writing for the anthology was a healing act. Many wrote me to say that writing their piece for the anthology was liberating or that they should have written what they wrote a long time ago. My thought then, and now, is that this is in itself a reason for the anthology. the next step in the process of healing is for you, the reader, to engage the testimony and witnessing offered here and find your own way to join the process of healing and thriving. Survive and Thrive: It Starts With The Heart follows the experience of survivors of sca and survivors in general. it begins with emergency Medicine, moves to Medical technology, Medical humanities, and then ways of doing Medical humanities and narrative Medicine. the first chapter, “contexts”, offers perspectives for each of these themes. “Get it Beating or Grieve” works from the general theme of trauma and emergency Medical services. “ the convergence of Lives” includes both medical technology and the relationships inherent in trying to adx just to life after trauma. “a heart’s reason for Beating” is a chapter dedicated to engaging life and moving on in the world. it is about the delicate balance of thriving while struggling with change and trauma. finally, “Do it” explores the motives, pedagogy, and plans for teaching and doing Medical humanities and narrative Medicine. xi xii i Contex ts f or o ur Gat herin G h er e 1. What the Service coStS US, and Why We Pay it DEBBIE GILLQUIST 2. of SParkS and ScoUrgeS and Second chanceS KEITH LURIE 3. Be an artiSt or die REX VEEDER 4. tWo StorieS aBoUt StorieS JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA 1 2 i.1 WhaT s erviCe C osTs U s , W hy W e P ay i T The and Debbie Gillquist i t was an almost white blue sky with sun enough for shadows that fall day. one of those that by its lingering warmth scrapes the edge off the promises of winter’s sub-zero temperatures. My partner and i were on our way back to the ambulance base after a routine call, enjoying the crisp air whipping in the wide-open windows. Minutes from base, our radio crackled “Unit 521 . . . Code 3 on a cardiac arrest.” My partner flipped on the lights and siren. i grabbed the map book. adrenaline always kicks up a notch when the call is an arrest, but then we heard dispatch update the call “521, you’re responding to a pediatric arrest.” adrenaline kicked up another notch. With only a few months into the job i was confident in my training but suddenly wondered if i was capable. “What if i forget drug dosages? What if i can’t secure an airway? What if, oh my God, what if i can’t save this child?“ at times like these time both slows down and speeds up. Just when i thought it would take a thousand years to get there, we slammed to a stop. as i parted an eerily quiet crowd, i saw a fluff of curly blonde hair beside a frantic and sweating young dad performing cPr. Pulling dad from his baby wasn’t easy, as if he never wanted to let go of her even though he realized we were professionals. We quickly took over care and moved the baby to our ambulance with dad only steps behind and mom, seemingly paralyzed and tear streaked, standing in disbelief. at times like these, the smallest detail, no matter how pedestrian becomes important. in my peripheral vision i witnessed one of the baby’s shoes tumble from our stretcher, and Dad momentarily pausing to consider if he should pick it up. he didn’t. once in the rig i felt blessed by the autopilot of my training and silently thanked God for protocols. i was acutely aware of Dad repeatedly whispering, “come on sweetie, you can do it. come on sweetie, please hang in 3 there.” his tears were echoes of his words. i echoed the same prayer, the same tears but on the inside, always on the inside. in the back of an ambulance with two paramedics, one distraught father, two first responders and of course the baby on the cot, the calamity and chaos of sudden death hung in the air but now we had something to do and somehow felt more in control. from a distance i heard the whop-whop-whop of a helicopter sent to transport the baby to a pediatric hospital. i felt detached for a moment, as if we were in a movie scene. in the movies, the cars usually lining the streets were gone to make room for the helicopter; the entire street was emptied of humans and machines save for our ambulance. a movie set? no, this was certainly real. We radioed the chopper to orchestrate a seamless move of the baby from our care to theirs, the same as the father had done with us. i watched the chopper until it seemed to blip out on the horizon. i felt i’d just run a marathon and was stumbling at the finish line. the entire call replayed in my mind: i was grateful that i remembered drug dosages and secured an airway and was able to provide all the care i knew that baby needed. But for all our care and the parents’ love we did not save that baby. i will never forget that family even though it’s been over 12 years since i responded to that call. i vividly remember how slowly the clock ticked as i waited to get home and hug and hold my own kids. i will also not forget that my manager at allina, susan Long, called within an hour of the call to ask if i was oK. that speaks to the family of first responders, medics, and eMts. We all know what the costs of this service are. how do we decide to pay the cost? it’s difficult to recall how i went from soccer mom to paramedic. Like most, i had no idea the difference between an eMt and a paramedic. But when i started to think about “what do i want to do when i grow up” i had a sense of wanting to help people through medicine. at almost 40 years old, i knew that becoming a physician was probably out of the question (although i did consider it . . . age has never been a determinant to me). i liked the independence that came with the role. i also came to understand that there are few true emergencies in which the outcome can be impacted by a healthcare provider. one of those is sudden cardiac arrest (sca). that’s when i made the decision to join all the other “kids” in class and become a medic. i recall telling my family, “When i die, please bury me in my uniform.” they laughed, but i wasn’t kidding; being a paramedic makes me that proud. after all my training i hit the streets eager to get out and make those “saves,” and i began to become passionate about sca and how to raise awareness and provide education, at the same time doing my best to save those sca patients who all face fantastic odds against surviving. and, i found that the families of survivors 4 i_contexts for our GatherinG here act in wildly different ways, that those ways of coping with sudden death are as varied as human beings vary. once in the back of a small bedroom, already heavy with grief, i rhythmically compressed the chest of an elderly man whose imminent death became clear to his wife. her swollen eyes met mine, and i knew she knew. i was surprised when she asked, “Do you like chocolate chip cookies?” rapidly donning an apron and going about the business of preparing to bake, or at least attempting to bake until she finally sat down and said: “We’ve been married for so long; who will i make cookies for?” sometimes in spite of the traumatic nature of the call we have to play referee. one time, after informing two sisters that we had done everything possible and that our attempts had been unsuccessful, they argued. through whiskey breath and slurred words, one sister told us to stop cPr while the other demanded that we continue. they argued about who would stand to gain financially if mom lived or died. there is never a “right” or “wrong” way to react to sudden death. My only hope is that we can be proactive in our approach to survival so there will be less conversation related to sudden death and more occasions to celebrate survival. My very last medic shift was one amidst rows of brightly decorated houses, adorned reindeer statues with santa in tow. our second call that night was an arrest of a 50-somethingyear-old male with his collegeaged son there for the holiday. i remember thinking that it was christmas, and it seemed so unfair. Years earlier i worked three arrests in one day. You just can’t “leave your work at the office” when you have this kind of a day. But, the save, the elusive and spectacular save, that’s What the Service coStS US and Why We Pay it _GILLQUIST 5 what motivates us. and, therein lies why many of us choose paramedicine. for that one save, that one sudden cardiac arrest victim who becomes a sudden cardiac arrest survivor, that person is why we do this work. this is why i embrace awareness and education. this is why i devote my time to this cause. it is why we pay the emotional price. i.2 o f s Parks and s CoUrges and s eCond C hanCes Keith Lurie “Y a know doc, you should have a toilet plunger at the end of every ccu bed. it saved my father three times in the last couple of months each time his heart stopped,” the 22-year-old son of a sudden cardiac arrest survivor told to me with a smile and twinkle in his eye more than 25 years ago. But he meant it and he was right. how is it that a concept that is so simple is so hard to understand? sure, nobody wants to perform mouth-to-mouth when doing cPr so it is only natural to plunge the chest and then pull up the chest to suck more air in. What is even harder for this doc to understand is why we are such slow creatures to change. Being ‘creatures of habit’ implies we don’t like change at all, especially in medicine. in 1601 a British sea captain, James Lancaster, performed and described what might have been the first randomized clinical trial. scurvy was known to kill over half of the sailors who set out each year for long voyages. he thought that lemon juice might prevent this deadly disease so on one of four ships he sent to india, all sailors were given a tablespoon of lemon juice each day. nearly half the sailors died from scurvy on the 3 control ships where no lemon juice was used whereas very few died of scurvy on the lemon juice ship. have you ever heard of James Lancaster? how about captain cook? captain cook espoused the use of 6 i_contexts for our GatherinG here daily malt, in the form of a beer, to treat scurvy. he was wrong: it does nothing to prevent scurvy but we all remember his name and nearly nobody has ever heard of Lancaster. some 265 years after Lancaster’s life-saving discovery citric juices (we know now the active ingredient is vitamin c) became part of the standard diet for all British sailors. Millions perished because nobody wanted to make a small and simple change in the sailors’ diet. so we are in the middle of an enormous cardiac arrest epidemic with the equivalent to 3 fully loaded 747 jetliners crashing and burning every day. that is how many people die unexpectedly (and unnecessarily) from cardiac arrest every day outside the hospital. a similar number die inside the hospital daily. Despite having the technology, inspired in part by the physiology of the toilet plunger patient and the know-how to markedly increase survival rates, we hide behind all too many excuses and are generally unwilling to change. Jump forward to 2005. thanks to the unrelenting efforts of many focused primarily in Minnesota, a program first called “tenting the town” and later ‘take heart america: a sudden cardiac arrest survivor initiative,’ was born. this program provided a new way to improve outcomes after cardiac arrest based upon best scientific principles and research. rather than try to find a single silver bullet (e.g. drug or device), multiple interventions known to help specifics aspects of the overall condition are combined to improve circulation during cPr to increase the likelihood of restoring a stable heart beat and blood pressure in patients in cardiac arrest. this treatment is followed by expert post-resuscitation care in specialized hospitals includes cooling the body of persistently comatose patients and treating heart rhythm and heart artery blockages as soon as possible. shortly after the birth of this program the ‘miracles’ started to happen. of note, cooling after cardiac arrest was first described in the medical literature in 1959 but first adopted as a standard of care in the us nearly 50 years later. “Miracle in the icu” was the subject title of an email describing a man who seemed for all intents and purposes dead who then woke up completely after being treated with ‘cooling’ or therapeutic hypothermia in the intensive care unit. this person, Bob Kempenich, has gone on with his wife Mary to teach thousands in central Minnesota on the importance of and how to perform cPr. next was the 21-year-old Ben Jabs who had just finished watching the stanley cup playoffs. after he went to bed and starting making terrible groaning sounds his mother, a nurse, realized his heart had stopped and she started cPr right away. it was 2 a.m. the local eMs providers arrived quickly and shocked his heart but he remained in refractory cardiac arrest. When allina ambulance medics arrived they implemented the whole take heart america bundle of care, which included a new device called the impedance threshold device (itD) or resQPoDtM, discovered at the university of Minnesota in 1995. When used with high quality cPr this device doubles the blood of SParkS and ScoUrgeS and Second chanceS_LURIE 7 flow to the heart muscle and helps pump more blood to the brain during cPr. With the take heart america approach Ben was then rapidly resuscitated, cooled and he too woke up several days later. Ben went on to graduate from college and now works for Medtronic helping to save the lives of others. then there was the pregnant 18-year-old who was also treated high quality cPr, an itD, and an automated defibrillator by st. cloud police officers. she too was cooled. Mom and her baby born 4 months later are both intact and thriving. this was another first, mom and fetus both successfully resuscitated with take heart bundle. We celebrate our success stories, including that of Dr. rex Veeder, who is the editor of this book. he too benefited from the take heart therapy that was delivered by st. cloud Minnesota eMs and st. cloud hospital health care providers. the number of survivors with good neurological function actually doubled when the take heart america plan was implemented in parts of Minnesota. so why is the cardiac arrest survival rate still so low in most places around the us and around the world when programs like take heart america exist? Why do our star athletes, our moms and dads, and our neighbors still die so often and so suddenly? What we have learned is that the discovery process is only the beginning of a very long journey. restoring the miracle of life after cardiac arrest requires collaboration, buy-in, willingness to change, victims who die but might then help to motivate change, champions, resources, alignment of shared motives and goals, collaboration of health care providers across the broad spectrum from the emergency medical technician to the ceo of the hospital, and a shared vision of educators from the cPr instructor to the president or chancellor of the university. throw into the mix a lot of luck, a lot of love, and a lot of optimism, and then the spark of life will ignite. only then will we begin to realize that change is possible and we don’t have to wait 265 years or 50 years to move the field forward, that premature death from the scourge of cardiac arrest can be forestalled, and that tens of thousands of parents and children, friends and colleagues can be given another chance to wake up, smile, laugh, sing, dance, contribute to the wellbeing of humanity and once again watch the sun rise. 8 i_contexts for our GatherinG here i.3 be an a rTisT or d ie Rex Veeder a rt, in all its forms, is a human equivalent to animal instincts in response to suffering. When an animal is suffering or its life threatened the pack or herd is often gripped with terror or what we recognize as a dedicated attention to the suffering pack or herd member. When Lions attack a Zebra, the herd when not in full flight, may stand by and watch with a mixture of wide-eyed terror and we might even say fascination. at some point, these spectators have a switch clicked in their brains, and they go about the business of surviving, seemingly without memory of the death struggle. i realize this isn’t the only response observed, and the responses vary with species. it’s clear that elephants, for example, will attend to a dying elephant and mates of most species often linger in confusion or perhaps even grief, even when it means death. in fact, the more human the response seems, say in apes, the more we identify with the animal. But, the characteristic animal response to suffering is instinctual, and we can say this whether we believe animals think or not. humans have a different relationship with suffering. We do not, in most cases, have an instinct that switches empathy off in order to allow us to move on. suffering is not something animals contemplate as far as we know, but humans do contemplate, meditate, worry, and think about suffering. suffering is what we hope our children could avoid, what we wish our elders were spared, and what we sense waiting for us. there is no escape from suffering, and our bodies, spirit, and mind carry suffering along with us as much as they carry joy. responses to suffering are often highly personal but recognizable in the makings of human thought and communication. artists have suffering as their business, along with joy, and sometimes those who interpret art recognize as vital art statements and artifacts that somehow transform suffering into joy, or some feeling or sensation that lightens those suffering so we can accept, manage, organize, understand, be released, or so immerse ourselves in suffering that it becomes a part Be an artiSt or die _VEEDER 9 of bone and soul. this is the equivalent to the animal instinct that releases them from the bondage of suffering so that they can live. for humans that release can lead to not only living but actually thriving as they metabolize their engagement with suffering with their whole being. for those involved in the practice and science of healing, involvement in art should be something repeated daily at least. suffering and its consequences are institutionalized for them. the habits of suffering part of protocol. a primary human trait is to bear witness to suffering. We survive because we become involved in the artful act, the metabolizing and therefore harmonizing of discordant emotions, sensations, relationships, and bodily pain. through the artful experience we are no longer frozen and staring at suffering and attending grief. such a release is life giving. it saves our lives if we consider the stresses of suffering and the attending effects on all of us. Be an artist or die, even if it is a matter of many tiny deaths. i.4 TWo s Tories a boUT s Tories Jimmy Santiago Baca i was recently in seattle, at the house of this prosperous Wall street investor. he no longer lived in new York, he retired from Wall street, took his millions with him and bought this enormous luxury-resort ranch on the outskirts of seattle. We drove up a long winding blacktop and parked under a grove of weeping willows next to a pond. Before entering his house for dinner, he took me to the side overlooking vast rolling green hills that undulated to the horizon. he said he had thousands of sheep, horses and cattle. if he wanted to impress me, he did, and after ingesting this sumptuous delight, a poet in awe, we turned to join the others already waiting for us at the table for dinner. i sat at the far end of the table with the rich guy sitting at the head of the table. i started in telling stories to the women and men around me and we were 10 i_contexts for our GatherinG here engrossed until some time later we heard a voice rise above the table chatter with Bullshit! Bullshit! We all stopped talking and looked to our right where the voice came from, it was from the rich guy glaring at me. Your stories are bullshit! i was dumbfounded. i didn’t know what to say and the other people around the table were equally caught off-guard by the outburst. he needed to be recognized. he needed us to justify the choices he made because i realized as sprawling and grand as this alice in Wonderland plantation was, it was equally commensurate to an impoverished character and emotional life, a shrunken spiritual life as drought stricken and bleak as any desert. and as he stumbled through his forsaken landscape, this trophy plantation was an expansive mirage glimmering in the distance with hope for salvation. i’m not here to judge why he was the way he was nor to measure his suffering, which is impossible, but merely to focus on the power of healing narratives, which he was in need of. While he sputtered, all of us caught in the constrictive grip of his anger at us for telling stories, i looked at him and asked: “tell us a story.” he couldn’t, and living a life with no stories meant you lacked an essential aspect of what it means to be human, meant you had to live in absence of meaning, meant you had to leverage all your wealth in hopes that it might culminate with something as valuable as a story. and if you didn’t have it, your life ended up as nothing more than a series of ruthless deals and profit margins, hopped up on Prozac or anti-depressants to tolerate your drudgery, your days passing you in a blur until for a moment you find yourself at a dinner table with a poet who suddenly brought it all up in your face and you had to scream “shut up! no stories!” because they reflected your unimportance. Without stories all your money and your life is a hollow and sterile walnut missing its nut. i couldn’t stand to be sharing bread with a storiless man, and i got up and put on my coat and walked out. i could hear him behind scathingly attacking the worthlessness of stories, shouting that they meant nothing, could buy nothing, could achieve nothing, stories—bah! all bullshit! i heard him almost pleading with his guests as i closed the door behind me. that is the result of no stories. next i present a poor, tribal boy of eleven or twelve, his life brimming with stories, and thus with medicinal purpose and rich, life-dancer dreams and healing excitement. i stress medicinal and life-dancer heart and healing not merely because they’re nice catch-words, but because they are the words of these times that can educate one, align one’s life and get it on track, make some sense of the chaos in an ordinary life; they are the words that trim away the excess, that tWo StorieS aBoUt StorieS_BACA 11 give us strategy and approaches to challenge the economic-corporate madness, that allow us grace as we embrace our own silence and learn to speak again with our lives. i met him in a village in the mountains of nicaragua, and he illustrates it all; that is, what is it not only to have stories but to be blessed with a poet’s heart by them? Be given a journey, be honored with valor and integrity, that is what paying attention to words and ceremonializing language can do—make our life a series of days imbued with ordinary ritual that elevates the mundane to glowing insights and centralizes our lives in landscapes of meaning. he’s connected to all of us, whether you’re a beekeeper in new Mexico, a sociologist in Quebec, a teacher in the Bronx, he’s part of every step we take and every breath we inhale. i didn’t know him. i went with a film crew to the international poetry festival held in nicaragua. almost a hundred countries were represented by poets from those countries, and thanks to Daisy Zamora and George evans i was granted permission to interview some of those poets for a documentary. the poets spread out over the country, some going to the lake, others to cities, still others to the mountains to visit villages. all of this poetic activity was occurring before the big carnival scheduled to happen in a few days. i was with a group of poets being driven up to the mountains to visit a village, and when we got there the villagers were all decked out in tribal garb. in attendance were military generals and provincial statesmen. the little girls’ dresses spiraled like crinoline flowers that rivaled spring flowers. Group after group of kids and adults came out and sang and recited poems on the revolution, love, community, and devotion for the earth. then this little kid came out of nowhere and recited a poem that seared through every fiber of my body. i asked him whose poem it was, and he said he wrote it. i challenged him to recite another one and he did. that was it, he was born poet, one of few so young i ever met. i asked him to accompany me when the General asked us to go to lunch with him. My friend and fellow poet herb Lowry heard the boy’s poems too and he adopted him immediately and over lunch herb stated we were going to send the boy a Mac computer and that we would be his mentors. We would send him money and kind of groom him as a poet. the General chimed in that we could send the money and computer through him but herb thought it might better to send it through a woman who was the head of the film crew. We also invited the boy to read with us that night on stage before thousands of people, including the President of nicaragua who was going to be there. hours later i was back in Managua, in a cigar shop, leaning over a display of cigar samples, trying out several cigars, when i felt a tugging at my coat. i turned 12 i_contexts for our GatherinG here and there was the boy, ready to read. i walked outside with him and he pointed to a large group of people and said he brought his family, at least three dozen indians, all standing humbly in the road, looking my way. i wasn’t at all sure the boy could read with us and when the Bishop and President arrived that evening i was certain it wouldn’t happen. the man running the logistics of the show said no, absolutely not. When i told the kid it wasn’t going to happen, he was completely disappointed. But herb would have none of it. he walked right past the bodyguards and approached the President and asked if the boy could read. he was given permission for the boy to read one poem. i couldn’t believe herb. What a beautiful man. the boy opened the show that night, and when he was done i hugged him and said he had done a wonderful job. he then turned to his family and they all rose to leave, and his mother, a small bird-like frail woman, came up to me with hands clasped in a praying manner and thanked me. i hugged her, all four foot two inches of her. then they all grouped together and turned to leave. i turned back to the stage where the light illuminated the podium and the next poet came up. then it hit me—i dashed past the crowd and went back to the street to see the boy’s whole family vanishing into the dark. i ran up to them and asked them where they were going. they said back to their village. “But,” i gasped, “it’s over thirty miles in the dark through jungles and such—you can’t possibly think you’re going to walk the whole way back in the dark tonight?” and they smiled, looked at me as if i was confused by something, and their look conveyed the answer—Sure we are, he read his poem, it was another story in our lives, and now we’re going home. and they turned and disappeared into the night and left me standing there in the dark on a dirt road with their narrative, teaching me for perhaps the first time in my life what real poetry was for real people. My God, they walked thirty miles to get here, and now they’re walking back thirty miles after the poem was read. that, whatever the meaning encompassed, was what poetry was really about. i wonder if i would walk thirty miles one way to read a single poem in front of obama? not a chance. Would i bring my whole family to hear it, to share in it, and would my family even consider walking with me, much less support my crazy passion for language? tWo StorieS aBoUt StorieS_BACA 13 14 1 Get i t Be ati n G o r Gr ie ve 1. What oUr heartS are JEANA STRONG 8. SUrvive and thrive MARQUES MCLOTHAN 2. fUll PoSt 3. addictS and angelS CAROL ALLIS 9. gate of mercy 10. one of thoSe StorieS STEVE KLEPETAR 4. emergency medical ServiceS BRAD ISBERNER 11. Be the change LESLIE AGUILLARD 5. Starting and Staying in the ProfeSSion of emS O.J. DOYLE 12. aBdUction GRANT HAAKE 6. holey heart LESLIE COUNCIL 7. dUring a SUdden cardiac arreSt REX VEEDER 13. Waiting for SUrgery iii WENDY BROWN-BÁEZ 14. on north PleaSant DONNA SALLI 15. ProPer (re) identification PAM SECKLIN 15 16 1.1 WhaT o Ur h earTs a re Jeana Strong Lying naked on my chest, clean and smooth after a bath, the sky a dusky cornflower blue. “What’s in here?” Pearl asked, tapping on my breast bone. “that’s my heart,” i told her. “You can hear it beating.” she paused. some moments passed quietly. “Your brain is in there?” “no, my heart. can you hear it?” she listened again, then lifted her head and looked at me. “sometimes i don’t know what our hearts are,” she said. i teared up. “sometimes i don’t know either,” i told her. “You don’t have to know. Just listen.” and she fell asleep to that ancient mama music, the crickets outside keeping time. What oUr heartS are_STRONG 17 1.2 fUll PosT * Carol Allis she had to unzip the black body bag to check Yes . . . “full post”—complete autopsy to find out why you died even though we all knew that’s my baby there, i said You can analyze all the blood samples you want and sift through all those meds an inhuman amount of meds for a 29-year-old Doled out by doctors Who didn’t see alcoholism as a legitimate disorder Just an annoyance here, take this oh, woops, forgot about that mental illness thing We know why you died You died, literally of a broken heart Years of struggling, pain rallying and relapse they may know what was in your blood But they don’t know what was in your heart they’ll never know they can open up your skin *allis’ poems are taken from Poems for Ordinary People published by north star Press and available in bookstores and online. 18 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe But they can’t get inside it there’s no tool or procedure for that that takes love and endurance Devotion and history—a lot of history i had a full post too . . . cut right down to the bone My organs taken out and put back in a little plastic bag and there are some days i can tell you i’m not sure if i’m put back together anymore . . . 1.3 addiCTs and angels Carol Allis You have no idea all the places i have seen you er and detox sprawled on the bathroom floor Wedged between car doors collapsed at the bottom of stairwells in police cars and ambulances hovered over by cardiologists and respiratory therapists and shrinks and police officers in all these places and conditions i have seen you and you do not remember even though i have seen you, terrified addictS and angelS_ALLIS 19 eyes shot open wide with fear staring down the black maw of death aware of the danger, oddly only because you are in a fog and robbed of comfort that everywhere, everywhere God is close by Look—see— We are holding your hands taking your pulse cleaning up the mess Pumping life back into your savaged heart all of us—the mothers and fathers Brothers and sisters friends and children even the eMt who doesn’t even know your name Wake up, wake up and see angels surround you and their love holds up the world 20 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe 1.4 emergenCy m ediCal s erviCes Brad Isberner a ngels! Guardians! Life savers! care Providers! these are just a few names that describe emergency Medical service technicians. they have been all of the above for me at points in my life when diabetes management backfired and blood sugars dropped to a near-death level. i am forever thankful to the emergency Medical people who have brought me out of the near-death episodes. the technicians—who are simply professionals highly trained to perform life-saving steps for anyone in any circumstance—have mattered to me. i am grateful for the work they do and the lives they save, including my own. for the past 43 years, i have fought the good fight to manage diabetes. the educator and perfectionist in me would like perfect blood sugar levels, thus i manage diabetes with very tight control in an effort to live a normal life and prevent the complications that can come with this disease. i currently utilize, in my opinion, the best technology available today for diabetics: a Medtronic Paradigm realtime revel Mini Med #523 insulin pump with continuous glucose monitoring. i have been blessed to be living during this time to see advances in diabetes management from boiled glass syringes and animal insulin to genetically produced insulin and insulin pumps. it has been a miracle for me to use high technology like the insulin pump. “We need an iV, intravenous infusion directly into a blood vein,” states one eMs technician to another. “his blood sugar reading is 18, eyes are dilated, we need glucose started now,” responds the other technician. “this guy looks in great shape. Perhaps that’s why his resting pulse is only 33.” “Perhaps, let’s make certain; get a heart rate monitor hooked up.” one observer states, “he works out every day. We saw him walking his bike, and he looked off balance and suddenly just fell over. We called you guys because he was unconscious.” another observer mentions that he has played tennis with the man, a very good athlete who checks emergency medical ServiceS_ISBERNER 21 his blood glucose levels even during the tennis match. “You all did well, thanks,” responds the third eMs technician. from a spiritual perspective, i feel i am watching and listening to all of what is going on while hovering ten meters or more above. i can hear and see everything that is taking place. i am experiencing a sense of peace and quiet that i have never known before. i whisper to God, I like this and don’t want to go back down into that body. I am ready to go home if it is time. “he’s blinking, yep and asking for his energy bar.” “how are you feeling?” “Better. i am so embarrassed,” says the patient. “What is your name?” “it has always been Brad.” “Where are you?” “Dah, florida!” “are you feeling better?” “Yes, you asked me that already. i am really embarrassed you guys had to come.” “no problem, don’t worry about it, this is our job, you are in very good shape, did you eat breakfast this morning?” “Yes, i knew i was dropping in blood sugar and wanted to get home to have my mid-morning post-exercise snack. i should have just stopped the workout and eaten the energy bar.” “Good idea. Do you work out a lot?” “everyday, it serves as therapy for me trying to manage diabetes.” “are you watching your blood sugar readings prior to your exercise?” i slide my hand down to my pump and press a button and get an immediate blood glucose reading. she is impressed that i have this type of technology. i state that it is unfortunate that both the pump and i did not perform well today. “thanks for all your help. i appreciate you people . . . yet wish i did not have to ever see any of you ever again.” they chuckle and remain for twenty more minutes sharing in positive conversation until i have a glucose reading above 100 mg/ dl. this episode closes by filling out all the paperwork and signing the documents. i thank them once again prior to their departure. My heart is moved with love and compassion for what i have just experienced from a spiritual and human side of life. i am blessed to have more time on earth to “survive and thrive.” each day is a blessing, and i am reminded to live life each day as if it were our last. During the times i have had a low, i have really come to examine each one with a microscope to figure out what went wrong to utilize this information to prevent a future low. unfortunately, sometimes everything was perfect and the low blood sugar episode cannot be explained. it is the nature of diabetes. thanks once again to all the professional eMs people for the great job that you do. Know that i am ever grateful to you and your chosen profession. 22 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe 1.5 s TarTing of s Taying in The P rofession ems: a P ersonal h isTory and O.J. Doyle a lthough i have been involved in the emergency Medical services (eMs) system for over three decades, i entered the profession from a rather unusual route. My career had been politics, having worked for three state legislatures, a lieutenant governor and, ultimately, Minnesota Governor al Quie. Part of my duties were to review all of the bills that found their way to his desk. During my tenure with the governor, i was a volunteer eMt in cottage Grove. numerous pieces of legislation crossed my desk with potential implications for the eMs delivery system. as everyone who frequents our state capitol knows, one can’t throw a stick down the hall without hitting at least one lobbyist. i dealt with advocates for every imaginable special interest group in Minnesota; notably the exception was anyone advocating for the eMs system and the public we serve. as the end of my job was looming, i made a decision that i was going to rectify that absence of an eMs advocate. as i approached my 40th birthday, i decided that i was going to position myself as the “savior” of eMs in Minnesota. not everyone in the industry was equally enthusiastic. it may have been my imagination, but i believe some medical providers considered me as something of an aberration. Why? Many professionals felt they were doing just fine without a politicianturned-paramedic inserting himself as their self-designated white knight. nonetheless, i went to paramedic school to gain a better understanding of the system, patient care, medical interventions, and the delivery system in general. frankly, i also wanted to gain some credibility as a bona-fide paramedic. upon securing my certification as a nationally registered paramedic, i followed the usual routine of riding as a third person, picking up occasional on-call shifts. it was the now-defunct Divine redeemer ambulance, and director Dave Miller, who gave me my chance. once i was allowed to work with a single partner, i may have Starting and Staying in the ProfeSSion of emS_DOYLE 23 been a bit long in the tooth to be starting out, but i was no less enthusiastic about the important job that had, in a sense, chosen me. it was a beautiful late summer day. My partner and i were heading to cover for another rig that had been dispatched to a motor vehicle accident. suddenly, a call came in as “one down.” as luck would have it, we were two blocks from a car wash where a man was flat on his back with the phone still in his hand. We did a quick assessment. he was in full arrest but had only been down for about 90 seconds. We ran a complete code, but it was the initial use of a defibrillator that restored him to a normal rhythm. We transported him to the hospital, gave report, finished the paper work, went back into service and thought little more about it. three weeks later, a tall, middle-aged man walked into our headquarters at Divine redeemer and asked if a guy named o.J. worked there. i said “yes” that was me. he shook my hand, and thanked me for saving his life. i was stunned. it was at that very moment that i knew i had found a home. after a relatively short career as a street medic, i was promoted to operations Director. Whether it was my comic wit and personality, or the fact that i could type a cogent memo and take shorthand, i will never know—but i have my suspicions. serendipity—or fate—had intervened. My new responsibilities allowed me the flexibility to start monitoring activities at the state capitol. this new role was also partially subsidized by the Minnesota ambulance association—cautiously at first—but with growing confidence as they witnessed the benefit of someone watching out for the eMs provider community. as the years progressed, i became increasingly involved in actively lobbying for eMs. i was involved with everything from line-of-death benefits to reimbursement to technical changes in the system’s configuration. During the years, however, i never forgot the unnamed patient who by simple defibrillation was still alive. as defibrillators became smaller, less complex and even automatic, the public demand for those life-saving devices became even greater. Despite initial concerns over the ability of an untrained witness, aeDs caught on. as Dr. r.J. frascone, MD, faceP, from regions hospital once uttered in frustration: “the only way you can kill someone with an aeD is drop it on their head!” Dr. frascone’s eloquence helped convince the doubters. in the mid-1990s a coalition of the Minnesota ambulance association, Minnesota’s regional eMs Programs, and the american college of emergency Physicians–Minnesota Chapter began to actively pursue legislation to support widespread availability of aeDs. not all of our initiatives were enacted, but thanks to some farsighted and committed legislators, we witnessed the enactment of several key pieces of aeD legislation. first of all, we had to address the fears of liability on the part of emergency dispatchers who offered pre-arrival instructions and use of aeDs. a coalition suc24 i_contexts for our GatherinG here cessfully secured passage of immunity legislation. With the foundation established, we secured state appropriations to purchase aeDs for law enforcement vehicles throughout Minnesota based on rfPs. the focus was on rural areas where ambulance response times are generally longer than in the more urban areas. subsequent legislative sessions witnessed an even broader base of support for the concept of readily available aeDs in public settings. Many of the 8 regional eMs programs either donated aeDs to emergency responders or issued grants. our most recent, and perhaps proudest, accomplishment involved a joint project between the state of Minnesota and the Mdewakanton sioux tribal council, located in scott county. We worked out a cooperative effort, involving matching grants, whereby the tribe and the state would pool money to purchase an aeD for placement in every state Patrol vehicle in the state of Minnesota. By the completion of the initiative, there were 450 aeDs within an arm’s length away from every state trooper in the state. as a result of my small piece of the effort, the survivor’s network gave me an award. it is a recognition which i will always treasure. i am proud to say that my daughter colleen is a nationally registered paramedic—and without a doubt a much better one than i ever was. recently, she mentioned that she thought she heard me say that i still had my last paramedic certification card buried somewhere in my scrapbook. in fact i did. i somehow found it. the expiration date on my card was somewhere around the time of the drafting of the Declaration of independence. that realization made me reflective. Why did i let it lapse? the reason became obvious—at least to me. there are a considerable number of great ambulance crews out there. But there aren’t many people watching their back at the capitol so that they can concentrate on doing their jobs and improving the quality of life in our great state. through many odd twists of fate, i find myself working as a lobbyist to protect the best eMs delivery system in the united states. During those frustrating times during legislative deliberations, i always seem to recall a grateful middle aged man many years ago thanking me for ‘saving his life,’ and i am forever grateful for the opportunities that i have through the law making process so that similar gratitude may be repeated many times over throughout the state. Starting and Staying in the ProfeSSion of emS_DOYLE 25 26 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe 1.6 holey h earT Leslie Council sometimes there is a moment that time steals away and no one else can see the room spinning or the floor getting closer shaking hand upon a pain in the chest a hidden door without a key sometimes there is a moment when all that seemed so important fades away all life’s lessons and mistakes flashing like an old movie trinkets of reminisce all the promises of tomorrow a spoken word never set to music holey heart_COUNCIL 27 1.7 dUring a s Udden C ardiaC a rresT Rex Veeder you can beat death in life sometimes —charles Bukowski in my experience dying was a surprise one moment here the next an empty nest and i remember someone writing when Yeats died (and for sure i am not him) there was a revolt in the provinces of his body and he didn’t beat anything but for me it was a revolt in the town square anti-social networking where cells said to one another I beat my own drum I will not work with you and simply quivered and the rest of the body politic screamed and gasped and shut down the power station and i left town 28 i_contexts for our GatherinG here coming back from that journey was a trip cardiac extravaganza carnival with my wife saving my life (cPr stands for caring, primary, relationship but i digress) and that may be the point that being alive is digression (what a revelation) and it took a boom town full of healers to bring me back like the iceman from that silence that knew no light and that light that sounded like a bell oh, they gave me a forget-me-and-it drug and i’m glad so don’t ask me if i saw the light because it is none of my business now that i’m wholly here and leaving the rest to whatever determines forever. dUring a SUdden cardiac arreSt_VEEDER 29 1.8 s Urvive T hrive: iT s TarTs WiTh The h earT —m arqUes a sPoken Word Poem: and Marques McLothan survive, it starts with the heart. My mind has drifted to another place and brought me to the kingdom of art. not just drawings from a pen or pencil, or paintings from a paint brush or whatever utensil because it’s not only about what you see it’s about words that create visual images to your mental. for example, i saw something that caused my emotions to react and what i saw through my eyes caused my soul to jump back i closed my eyes so my vision would roll back, pondered about what i felt so my thoughts, i told my mind to control that because i couldn’t live with what i saw knowing my dad could die from a massive heart attack. see, a true artist doesn’t rely on what they see, they rely on what they feel. You don’t know how juicy a fruit is by looking at it, you know once you taste it after you peel. You don’t know how much pain you’ve been through until after you heal, and it’s impossible to know how death feels until your spirit has been killed. if you’ve never felt any of these things all you’ve encountered is words get your pen and pad ready take notes, they say when you listen you learn. i’ve been there, spiritually set on fire that i physically felt the burn changing gears so much emotionally, that mentally i started to turn. 30 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe first gear, felt like my mom wasn’t there in my past so mentally i started to deter. second gear, two of my close friends died, don’t see them they don’t appear. third gear, psychologists say i’m depressed, and me living in society they might fear. fourth gear, repaired relationship with my mom, started to express myself through poetry, and my mind became more clear. fifth gear, My dad shifted into a heart attack, thought the Lord was bringing him near. finally switched to the last gear, and played everything by ear the whisperer was the Lord saying he’s gonna keep my dad here. Psychologically i started to break down, lightning struck my mind as thunder hit the sockets in my eyes rain trickled from my pupils, which put me in a stormy vibe, i began to write which turned that storm in my mind to a sunny inside. so psychologically i began to thrive, then my heart became pure, and that’s why i survived. they say take this pill and that pill, if you take them long enough then your problems will get killed. But when you take them you never feel like your true self the old you is struggling screaming out for help, while the new you is laughing at the person you once knew because they’re vanquished, but really your true self is not gone, the Meds just took them on vacation. now the old you and the new you are in an altercation the new you is losing the battle, and dealing with pure frustration thought it had you, but grasped your mind and not your heart survive and thrive, it doesn’t start with the mind, but it starts with the heart. SUrvive and thrive_MCLOTHAN 31 1.9 gaTe of m erCy Steve Klepetar i found my way down the river to the Gate of Mercy where crocodiles brim with tears. My hand went cold as i touched its icy surface, i felt wounded and starved. But then there was fruit and cheese and cold water from a tin cup, with an edge so thin and sharp it cut my lip, which bled profusely onto the struggling grass. i need not have worried, though, because someone touched my bloody lip with a finger and i was soothed. she whispered my name and my hands were full of leaves. even the crows left off shredding garbage bags and wheeled in the sky, a black mandala burnt into early spring air. there’s so much you can’t know, about mercy and crocodiles and crows, those harbingers of hunger and blood. 32 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe 1.10 o ne of T hose s Tories Steve Klepetar Death lay in the gutter with a bloody knee, one of those stories with masks and a beautiful face— and a woman with a healing ball of smooth stone, rubies dangling from her ears, a voice of flame kneeling by his wounded head a rush of carts in that rutted street, horses and hungry men bent over sacks demanding a name (full of compromise and soot, a place in the shadows where rats ran through an illusion of glass) a moment only when the world stopped, and the snow new fallen kissed the trees to whiteness and glinting gold. Yes, from my blessed vantage point this universe expands in all directions, gas and clouds congeal, and alive in cold air i breathe the ancient light of stars. one of thoSe StorieS_KLEPITAR 33 1.11 b e T he C hange Leslie Aguillard there’s unplanned for habitation under the blue tarp over the old wood and boxes stored for years now at the side of the house a creature has moved in aftermath noted from nightly prowling and i don’t understand the upturned potted plants fouled water and scattered unripe grapes wasted on the patio What is your deal Granted, all this should be yours unmarred by human concrete and asphalt Gas lines and power lines and spilled antifreeze it should be prairie, woods and rocks overgrown with sage, prickly pear and dog rose no blue shredded polystyrene no sand locked pavers still—is this a war now we take apart the tarp covered storage this arbor should have graced a walkway long ago and a porch swing boards for a bookcase i’d still love to have and enough nooks and crannies to snuggle in for a night free from predators and homeowners thinly disguised as same what will be your reaction when you return if you have survived the day 34 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe the fast rolling rubber of vehicles investing the world will you at least eat the grapes on the ground i put out fresh water. 1.12 abdUCTion Grant Haake the actual event doesn’t register . . . recollections are vague. Details vary. Memories are foggy. the aftermath slowly comes into focus . . . Darkness. noise of movement. Voices speaking in a strange language. can’t move. can’t speak. next . . . a pinhole of light becomes visible . . . grows slowly. shadowy figures are moving about. some are bent over me and some are standing back. Voices intensify, become louder. can’t move. can’t speak. Can’t understand! frustration . . . figures are unfamiliar, but bipedal. What have they done? awareness comes slowly. aBdUction_HAAKE 35 head hurts. Mouth dry. i taste blood. Muscles are stiff. Progress . . . ? Gaining mobility in my limbs. i must be coming out of it. still too dizzy to make any sudden moves. creatures are starting to come into focus. their language must be evolving. i’m starting to understand the words, but i can’t comprehend them. i try to sit up and they push me back down. they have the advantage on me. their body language is becoming more insistent. they keep trying to look in my eyes. realization . . . i can understand them. they’re speaking english. they’re always saying the same thing: “Grant? are you ok, Grant? i want you to look at me. You’ve had a seizure. no, don’t try to get up. You’ve had these before? Do you have your medicine around somewhere? no, don’t get up. We can get it for you. Do you want to go to the hospital . . . ?” the first abduction came at the age of 12. for 22 years, despite preventative measures, my loved ones have seen me taken randomly. i have no way to protect them from the next one. 36 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe 1.13 WaiTing for sUrgery iii Wendy Brown-Báez she says, “Blood test is fine. But there is something here on your eKG. i want the other doctor to take a look. We’ll give you a call,” waves me out of the room. i didn’t even know what an eKG was until today and now they are telling me my heart is not ok. it is broken. i knew that. and not once. it was chewed on by men who regarded me as a dizzy blond, it was grated onto someone’s slice when he thought i was for taking, it was trampled on in the Middle east war, it was smashed into pumpkin bits like halloween gone amuck the day my beloved told me he couldn’t go on. it was sledge-hammered the day my son died, what was left of it. Because, dumb heart kept growing back, like another row of teeth on a shark, like another tail on a lizard, like a set of Waiting for SUrgery iii_BROWN-BÁEZ 37 wings on a butterfly who had been pinned to the wall. somehow managed to jump. somehow managed to keep beating. and now they tell me it is “irregular” as if i didn’t know. it could be an old clock winding down the hour, it might flutter in flame, it might be too many love songs at midnight. My heart is tangled like shadows and lace. 1.14 o n n orTh P leasanT Donna Salli for days, you hear him coming, full throttle, visor down. and you make excuses, anything to get you out: your phone won’t ring, the dishes won’t rinse clean, your books change places on the shelf. he could be anyone: your brother drunk at seventeen— he drove like hell one night, to scare hell out of you, then laughed when you almost fell— 38 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe or the man you used to dream about, poet and priest. You wanted the view from that sloping seat. But this one is another woman’s grief, impalpable in harley briefs, throttle up and visor down, a blur beneath the streetlights, cocksure, uncalculated, dead in your yard for the rest of your life. 1.15 ProPer (r e) i denTifiCaTion Pam Secklin “hey lady, you can’t park there!” i go back and hang the tag up higher in the window. should i exaggerate the lame pre-medicated wretched hard hobble of the mornings so he can see more clearly, my permanent sidekick, Pain? or perhaps i might flash my ‘hip and femur implants’ card. can’t tell by looking at me that You couldn’t bear to look at me When it happened. cracked up by Life Bits and pieces of Being auto-ethnography Multiple fractures in time ProPer (re) identification_SECKLIN 39 clever titles for one surreal moment that left its indelible mark in bones, in skin, in the mirror, in surgeries to come, and forever in Motion or often, lack thereof. “so what happened in your accident?” instant tongue-tie, brain lock-up. What do they really want to hear? screeching, crashing, thunderous clashing Metal monsters moaning, groaning, snapping swirling whirling rays of sun, metal, grass, and glass Light, dark, light, dark oh Jesus i am rolling Quiet, white, soft. “open and close your hand if you can hear me!” Bright yellow hardhat bellows from a bright sunny hole, intoxicating breeze i know nothing other than my two hands, slowly opening and closing, dutifully, but sticky and wet. Many busy hands, not mine, now all around me. electricity searing white-hot, my legs are numb crunchy metallic mouth, glass and blood. Jaws of Life. rivets popping, snapping, ripping, tearing, mixed with grisly screaming, my own. Quiet, white, soft. “am i going to live?” breathy plea is answered by booming eMt “You hang on, keep talking to me!” Beating blades deafening, head swirling up in the whirlybird i want to cover my ears but my arms won’t move. Quiet, white, soft. “Mom it’s okay, but you have to go now.” Blurry faces, worried faces one i know, my daughter, she says i have to go to surgery. Why is she crying? the ceiling moves so quickly . . . But wait, she is singing now bleeping machines and everywhere, tubes 40 1_Get it BeatinG or GrieVe Pain and tears in the icu. “Mom, you’re done, you did great.” What happened? Quiet, white, soft. “rank your pain on a scale of one to ten please.” oxygen mask lifts and i whisper ‘nine’ something cold crawls up my vein, very nice, very fine. Quite, white, soft. four days of needles and tubes, intubation then removed; my question answered: “Bilateral compound and multiple hips and femur fractures four broken ribs, face ‘de-gloved’, bruised lung from your seatbelt, wouldn’t be here if not for that, oh and several puncture wounds, ortho team rebuilt your legs with implants and the Plastic surgeon team took care of your face, medically speaking. You should be mostly recovered in a year or so, with ot and Pt, time will tell, really should rest now, you’ve been through hell.” “hey lady, you can’t park there!” ProPer (re) identification_SECKLIN 41 2 th e C onv e rG enC e o f L iv es : Keep it B e at in G 1. medicalariUm ALBERTO RIOS 9. common groUnd MARY WILLETTE HUGHES 2. a Poem from Phoenix LINDA ZOUCHA 10. regret FRANCES CONDON 3. moUntainS to move LEON LAUDENBACH 11. a mother’S trUth MARY WILLETTE HUGHES 4. She mUSt have tWo heartS LESLIE COUNCIL 12. come hUmBle Sinner JASON LEWIS 5. SometimeS i forget MEGAN MACNAMARA 13. QUieter JEFF CARMACK 6. today i got the flU BRIAN BAUMGART 14. cUrSive mermaid ink AKSANIA XENOGRETTE 7. yoU gotta have hair SARA WEDEMAN 15. after Birth BRIAN BAUMGART 8. SimPly not the Same aS eaSy LESLIE AGUILLARD 16. “i had forgotten hoW it felt Walking on the Beach after a hUrricane” LESLIE COUNCIL 43 44 2.1 m ediCalariUm Alberto Rios 1. Medicine has the x-ray; literature has the poem. 2. our innate desire to climb is exposed easily enough in these last, science centuries. after a first serious illness, an x-ray of the chest reveals whether or not we have pneumonia—but more importantly, shows us the rungs of a secret ladder. 3. “Pneumonia” has in it the troubling cognates new, moan, and, more colloquially, inya, or “in you.” the word may have its studied etymology, as most words do, but sometimes a word stops acting like a word, sheds the middleman routine, drops its lawyerly stance, and escorts us straightaway to the raw moment. there is no dictionary for the real words of this world. 4. a moan, a plaint, a sigh, a whimper, a lament; crying, wailing, groaning, whining; screaming at the top of your lungs, crying till you’re all cried out, at wit’s end, beyond the pale. We have so many ways to say Something’s not right. the pains, the diseases, the coughing, the fast breathing and accelerated heartbeats: We don’t want to know this, but it’s all the same thing. We simply give it many names. 5. Coma and comma. they are easy to mix up. curiously, using only one “m” is for the greater slowing, two for the lesser. in this case, more is not more. it is like this medicalariUm_RIOS 45 with so many things. the equation, the equivalent, the equal, the common sense: so often they fail us. 6. a liver does what a liver does, a heart beats, the lungs inflate and deflate. But there are secret places on the human body, with secret words for them. raphe line. Lunula. Dimples of Venus. Philtrum. Diastema. Linea nigra. What is the clandestine work of the furtive place? so many of them. the spaces between eyelashes and toes, the vein maps on our thighs and fists, the wires at our wrists and the cords at the backs of our ankles. What is the greater effort of the disguised, the pursuits of the private and the personal of the body? What are the verbs of these things, not simply their nouns? Perhaps they gather like hair when we are young and full of them, then thin as we grow older, until suddenly we find ourselves sitting for a medical exam, and all our secrets one after another are given over just like that, written down, checked off a list. 7. on a human head, dreams coming up from inside us crest where our hair thins, dreams rising in their submarine way to spy for a moment on the world outside. it is no bald spot, rather the wake of dreams gone back down, the evidence of their having been. night after night, it happens again: all that hair, but among the strands, the tired reeds and swamp of this shore, the submarine rises, then, out of it, a hand, then a forearm, leveraging itself just onto the skin’s shore. it is a brilliant attempt, but leaves some damage, dream as a third arm, we never quite able to lift ourselves out of ourselves. 8. a book is as big as a page times two or three hundred. Which way you hold it, which way you see it, this is its magic measure. We describe a book as being 8 1/2 by 11, or standard size, or paperback size, or folio. We don’t say that it’s three inches big, or four inches thick. the brave face that it puts to the world, this is the measure taken. and yet, once opened, the book has stories to tell, whole lifetimes hidden in there. in surgery, the body, itself once opened, is also the definition of plot. What, we wonder, will happen next? 9. Medicine has the patient; literature has the reader. 46 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 10. Both the reader and patient are vested in, and changed by, the outcome of the plot. in a book, the protagonist is usually the hero. if it is a detective novel, a crime happens. the detective looks for clues, puts them together, and solves the case. in a medical paradigm, an illness or an accident happens. the doctor protagonist, as in the novel, is the detective who puts all the clues together and cures the patient. sherlock holmes is who we remember, or Jonas salk. the better they are, the better our chances as readers and patients. Let us be the hero-makers. Let the doctors and the detectives be those characters. Let us be incidental to the story, and ourselves live long, happy, non-fiction lives. Let us be cardboard characters who do not need further development. Let us escape. Let the doctors and the detectives and the plots and plans be memorable fiction, so that when we close the book, we can sigh and move on with our lives. medicalariUm_RIOS 47 2.2 a P oem from P hoenix Linda Zoucha i denied that i lied When i said i survived. instead i was dead in my head. My heart it kept beating My lungs they were breathing. But life. it felt mostly Like dread. then in walked the sunshine the kittens and birds. the flowers the friendships and i found the words. stay open and listen 48 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG share and be kind. i heard and i tried it and that’s how i thrived. 2.3 m oUnTains To m ove Leon Laudenbach i’ve been baptized in the fountain of youth. i’ve been scrutinized for telling the truth. there’s a scandal going on around here, a reflections looking back in the mirror. Did i mention i was loose in the tooth? i got to get a move on, i got mountains to move. Chorus i got mountains, mountains to move. a transformation, will get a new look. i’m salivating, get me off the hook. i need a martini, without the vermouth. i got to get a move on, i got mountains to move. moUntainS to move_LAUDENBACH 49 Chorus i got mountains, mountains to move. i got my business i keep to myself. i spent a fortune on my own mental health. i been down, down in a rut i been down, i lost my groove. i got to get a move on i got mountains to move. Chorus i got mountains, mountains to move. 2.4 s he m UsT h ave T Wo h earTs Leslie Council nurse tried to make the little girl laugh so she wouldn’t feel the cold sticky end of the wires stuck to her bare chest somewhere in that small ribcage was the double beat of an imaginary drum her fat feet swollen up like 2 balloons every summer stitches and blue ink still remained 50 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG in a moment’s notice she was giggly her hair pulled back into pony tails with green ribbons her hospital gown covered by a pink robe then in a blink one eye would shut her face would cringe distort and she would shed tears of pain being held in it was in this moment she dropped her drawing pencil and it rolled to the floor within seconds her body uncontrollably spasmed into fits fevers above 108 ice tubs and iv’s nurses and doctors running throwing gauze, plunging needles turning the child on her side making her bite down on tubing not her tongue then in a blink it all stopped her small body contorted all over a messed up bed stained with blood and sweat silent tears then a deep breath her mother’s hand caressing hair fallen out of ribbons a whimper, a sigh a beep on a machine that steadied and echoed in dreams She mUSt have tWo heartS_COUNCIL 51 she would sleep for days recover awaken to stitches in her feet gone swelling subsided fever just a number on a chart in red and a cold shower instead of an icy tub the nurses would be smiling asking if she wanted ice cream, jello and if she wanted to go outside or play in the play room painted like a forest filled with funny faced animals always smiling the machine strapped to her waist with colorful wires would beat simultaneously with her heartbeat so when she laughed it would increase speed as if the heart had been laughing too. 52 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 53 2.5 s omeTimes i f orgeT Megan MacNamara M ost mornings, i wake up forgetting that i have multiple sclerosis. the long night before, wracked with intermittent leg spasms and thus broken sleep, no longer reminds me of my disease. i integrate these loose fragments of sickness. they are like bits of broken bone that are reabsorbed as new bone ossifies. the tingling, sometimes numb fingertips, the blurry vision and the fatigue do not remind either, at least not first thing in the morning and not at their baseline levels. no, i struggle to eek a few last moments of sleep most mornings as my two dogs lick my face until it registers some semblance of wakefulness. When i do wake, it is with a dire need for coffee and never enough hours or enough energy to accomplish everything i must that day. they are infrequent, but there are mornings when i forget to inject my Ms medication. i wake up feeling so almost-healthy that the syringe lying on my night-side table is ignored in favor of a steamy shower, a cup of coffee, a run with the dogs—normal things. there are days, though, when the disease’s presence cannot be ignored— when the summer heat causes my proprioception to flee, my vision to fade and my waning energy to drop dangerously low despite the amphetamines meant to counter this. acute attacks are never a good time, but they usually pass without too much aggravation. the days when being an Ms patient bothers me the most are those days when i let myself lapse into thinking like the fighter i used to be. i do this too often and with hardly any provocation. “Boxer”—former boxer, i guess, now that it has been 15 years since last entering the ring—is the persona i enter when i need to find my strength and my voice. in fact, it comes naturally as though i will perpetually be in the throes of mental preparation for a fight that i will never engage in, planning punches that i will never throw. the absence of boxing in my life is my excuse to daydream, broadening the boxing arena for this fighter who no longer fights. now, when someone cuts me off in traffic, i indulge in a few moments of fight strategy, figuring whether i’d go for a furious barrage of punches or a slow-and-steady-wins-the-war tactic even 54 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG though i would do neither if face-to-face with the driver. on these days when i reclaim my fighter self, i find the meaning of multiple sclerosis so ironic, so painful. Many scars, indeed. i have felt this disease’s presence in my life, and it scares me when i let myself dwell too deeply and too long in unanswerable questions about disability, about the future. the scars consist not only of the many white matter lesions that appear on my Mri scan. they are not merely physical. they are a longing and a loss. they have personalities and passions all their own. sometimes, i forget that they are there. 2.6 Today i g oT The f lU Brian Baumgart You can’t think. i’ll specify: You can’t think when you have the flu or common cold, at least from my experience. today i got the flu, though i’m sure it’s been there, lingering in nasal passages like a lost boatman or a pirate floating in the middle of the ocean. Both flu and pirate wait to take control, to board at the most opportune time. the worst time for me and, of course, the pirate’s victims. today the flu crept up and first hooked my throat, then sent its cockeyed and parrot-like virus today i got the flU_BAUMGART 55 into my nose, where it sits, plucking at the most tender of places—including backs of eyeballs. i think if it were a pirate in there with his parrot on shoulder, he would have already set fire to my eyes, because i feel the flame with each cough and sneeze and wet suck of phlegm. i counted: every six breaths, i wheeze. Before i walk the plank i want to make a final wish that Dayquil and all the other over-the-counter drugs cannot touch. it’s not something you think of before the flu hits, but afterwards it is the only sure thought: Please let there be Puffs in heaven. 2.7 yoU g oTTa h ave h air Sara Wedeman First, I loved the machines! They were sooo cool! I have no formal training in tech, but I’d decided in 1996 that (quoting myself) “I will remake myself as a geek.” I hadn’t been around new medical machines much since I had an x-ray at the State Department in 1968, shortly before my family moved to S. Korea. This ultrasound machine was da bomb! It even showed the blood running through your veins in blue, and the oxygenated blood running through your arteries in red. My amazement at the machines formed the basis for my sorry but feverish attempt at small talk. She wasn’t buying it. 56 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG She cut straight to the chase: “You have cancer. You have it in your right breast and lymph nodes.” My response: “But how can that be? Are you sure?” She: “I’ve seen it a thousand times. I am not supposed to be telling you this, but I believe it’s best to be straightforward.” There are few things worse than the pursed-lipped silence of a medical worker who is not allowed to give you terrible news. You Gotta haVe hair, MiLes anD MiLes of hair When i went to the first chemo session, one of the nurses said to me: “You will lose your hair and you will lose it within 2 weeks. Buy a wig. Do it now.” of course, i didn’t. sho ‘nuf, within the week it all started falling out in clumps. therein i discovered that my imagined future geek self was no figment—it was who i really am. When the clumps started to go, i did what i deem to be the logical things: 1. i got out my cell phone and took numerous pictures of my hair. 2. using Bluetooth, i sent the photos to my computer. 3. i uploaded them into Photoshop elements, changed them into .psd files, and analyzed them for saturation, hue, luminosity, and density. isn’t that what anyone would do? Data in hand, i then launched an elaborate research project, designed to find ‘the perfect wig for the best price.’ it was a quick, thorough, and highly educational endeavor. i am now quite the expert on wigs—the type of hair (human, always best), the type of cap (hand woven, silk), and more. the result: i have about six wigs but one is really, really good. When i bought it online, it looked exactly like my own hair, right down to the haircut. When i got it, however, i looked like a cross between a hooker in the Bois de Boulogne and the flying nun (think: triangular, curly, bright blond, wide at the bottom with a peak at the top.) i took it to my hairdresser, a veritable genius. he cut and colored it to look exactly like my own hair (an analog type of guy, he didn’t even want to see my Photoshop analysis. Bummer). i wore it when i went out, but in the house, i wore hats. a fave was my green felt beanie cap with a whirligig at the top. once i answered the door, plopping it on my head because i couldn’t find anything else fast. it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were aggressively recruiting me (a resounding flop, i am proud to say. i was never rude but ultimately they just quit trying). they looked at me, green yoU gotta have hair_WEDEMAN 57 whirligig beanie cap on my bald head, and didn’t even flinch, launching directly into their quite delusional sales pitch. (nice people, if deranged . . . . ) over time, the “good” wig got pretty raggedy, and i looked like andy Warhol in the waning days of the factory. Yet, my evil father continually reminds me that the wig looked “great. Better than your own hair.” thanks for nothing, mofo. i’m still getting promotional offers from the “Best Wig,” among others. i’m now occasionally contemplating wearing the wigs for halloween next year, when i go as June cleaver. Wearing a wig is something i cannot imagine doing, barring dire necessity. first, there is the gel filled rubber band that is supposed to make it adhere to your head without necessitating super glue. then there are those weird small triangular protuberances intended to approximate what would be, on women, sideburns. that is if we had beards, which—God forbid—most of us don’t. in keeping with my commitment not to adhere to the standard contemporary cancer narrative (no “survivor,” no “support group,” no “sob sister” market positioning), i did not want to wear a scarf. i have beautiful silk scarves dating from my brief starring role as a corporate VP. i wore them occasionally and am told i looked glorious. apparently, the shape of my head is quite nice. i’m glad of that, but these days, to wear one on one’s head is like running into a public place waving a flag and shouting, “i have cancer.” (admittedly, i exaggerate, for the purpose of making a point. no humor intended or implied. 5551 ha!) after the first chemo session, it took less than nine days for my hair to begin to fall out in clumps. i felt like crap, too. Qualitatively, it was similar to having the flu—an holistic yuck feeling…. amplified by a factor of 10 at the power of two (= 103 ). Mike, my husband, said, “go to your hairdresser and have him shave your head.” a male response if i ever heard one. i am not PaYinG to have all my hair cut off, i said. Without telling anyone this was what i intended, i just went upstairs to my bathroom with several mirrors and a variety of scissors and razors. two hours later, i emerged completely bald. there was not a single imperfection. a planned digression: about a year later, i wrote a brief summary my hair status at the various stages of treatment. 1. 2. 3. 4. 1in 58 uncle fester sinead o’connor, Pope photo-ripping phase Mia farrow, frank sinatra era Johnny rotten, sneer and all thai, the number five is pronounced “ha;” thus “555” means “ha ha ha.” 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 5. the “awkward phase” 6. hair in full glory: thicker, blonder, and lusher than before. 7. first real visit to my venerated magician of a hairdresser, steven tamaccio. 2. One day shortly after Thanksgiving, 2004, I went in for a mammogram. I hadn’t had one in a few years; I was under fifty so they weren’t supposed to be all that important. I’d had a small lump in my right breast for almost 10 years. “Calcium deposits,” the radiologist told me—“nothing to worry about.” A week before, my OB-Gyn had a different point of view. She wrote a script not just for a mammogram, but for a digital ultrasound as well. So there I was, in an office a few levels below the ground at Jefferson University Hospital, in the Radiology center. I had just had my mammogram. The nurse came in to tell me, “It’s just a calcium deposit. Take a breath, relax and call your husband to come and get you.” I flushed with relief, placed the call and sat down to wait. Then the other nurse came in . . . . a slight but dour youngish woman who spoke with an Eastern European accent. “I’m here to get you for your ultrasound,” she said -unsmilingly, exuding not even a glimmer of warmth. “But they already told me I could go,” I protested. “Apparently, it’s just a calcium deposit.” Nurse #2 was not having any part of that. “Sit down and wait,” she said. I felt guilty, as if I had been apprehended while committing a crime. I waited. Then I waited some more. Finally, she came to get me. She took me down a long corridor lit with florescent lights, to a dark, cool room filled with equipment. I don’t remember too many of the details, just a few things. Cancer. the vortex the sinkhole i loved being ruthless. i pictured the most beautiful, beloved rose. then i hacked it to death, i lacerated it, burned it at the stake, pulverized the ashes. then i took a shower in love. i felt vicious, filled with rage. i loved every second of it. i would come home from chemo and stand on my head for five minutes, just to mock it. yoU gotta have hair_WEDEMAN 59 i fired my first doctor and referred myself to the chief of breast cancer surgery at Johns hopkins. one of the best things i have ever done . . . . never looked back (except in glee). My first cancer doctor: “the best” i was told, she’s the best. so, i’m standing in her office, having been ‘promoted’ to a Level V emergency case. she was very cute—tall, young, thin. Dark hair to her shoulders. Black leather jeans. she: “it’s not that the tumor’s so big: it’s that your breast is so small.” (My inner voice is talking: “say what, bitch? Who you talkin’ to? i am a damned killer.”) Monday morning Once upon a time, I greet my husband at the curb. I’ve already called him to tell him about the reversal. It’s not fine, I can’t take a breath. He’s sitting at the wheel of his car, by the side of the road, crying. I stare ahead. i hate Monday mornings. i especially hate them since i haven’t had any paid work. i used to hate them in the way one hates and old friend. i didn’t like getting up, getting dressed, timing my body’s rhythms to someone else’s—especially someone who is a morning person. i am genuinely not a morning person. it is not a pose. some people like to adopt the image of a night owl because somehow it makes them seem cooler, darker, a denizen of des boîtes de nuit de la villle. however, for the past 10 months or more, i have woken up almost suicidal, if without the violent tendencies. i desperately want to work, to be a part of life, to support my children, pay my bills, and have a normal life with vacations and health insurance and tuitions paid. it is killing me to sit here, wanting work, having to work in all the ways i most detest (inviting people to hire me, sending résumés, having phone conversations), watching helplessly while none of that happens and we end up, every day, in worse and worse straits. it’s hard to write about, even though i think about it 24/7. i picture the worst (i can’t even write it down—it will paralyze me). i picture the best, trying to ‘train my brain’ to think positive, since research suggests that works. 60 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG i heard from an old friend this morning, someone i hadn’t spoken with since april. Yet, at nine, he had a conference call and i got to return to: sitting here myself with nothing to do that anyone will pay for. it feels awful. i feel worthless, not to mention inept. i pause to write an eloquent (iMo) short political brief on a mailing list i subscribe to: i’ll do anything to feel like my time has value. anything at all to feel like i am part of the world. i cannot blame it all on having had cancer. however, my episode with cancer marks a turning point. it wasn’t killing the cancer that was hard. What is hard remains: 1. the long-term side effects of the treatment (kill the cancer by coming as close as possible to killing the host—me—without completely doing so), and 2. the social side effects of having had a life-threatening illness. Perhaps corny, but true: my spirit—that spark of divine light within me— wants to connect with fellow sparks. i/it calls out. “Where are you?” Oyé, can you hear me calling? Oyé can you hear me calling? Oyé I am calling to you.2 i want to believe in the power of connected sparks, i want to believe there is someone there who hears, and will answer. i need to be a part of that power—the power of good, of faith, of light and love. i want to believe that there is someone there. is there? Please god (gods?): send me a sign. actually, truth be told, i need more than a sign ~~~~ is anyone (any speck, preferably specks) up for that? i hope so. to the depths of my being, i hope so. 2oyé, by Jim Papoulis yoU gotta have hair_WEDEMAN 61 2.8 s imPly n oT T he s ame a s e asy Leslie Aguillard sweet grass blue with flowers sway pirouettes to the wind unseen hand brushing uprightness aside bending not straightness not a strength that snaps but the gentle giving way ever to yes i’ve forgotten the last time i stopped to notice how beautiful you are i am swept away breath catching deeply as if i hadn’t breathed in a long time waking me up to you in every petal and wing reflects each glistening jewel of dew your sigh how i long for eternity to freeze in this now oh to grab at it all with both hands— knowing better i close my eyes how little i have changed love still has so much to teach me i am swept away Before me all the tasks at hand cleaning mending planting weeding the drama here at arm’s reach billions of sequels yet from your perspective it is ever new the plot turns at every tiny gesture, each casual word. dusting the table top and washing each dish an opportunity the protagonist could grasp to bless the world, the enemy, the nagging pains and be swept away. 62 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 2.9 C ommon g roUnd Mary Willette Hughes from: fLiGht on neW WinGs healing through Poetry ninth grade he storms, slams out the kitchen door, pot and papers shoved in blue plaid pocket. he seeks a solitude: a place far from us, from rooms too small, demands too large. a night fist fight in the park and he breaks a classmate’s rib; he comes to table sullen, skips school again, again the phone rings. Money is missing. he asks for a kitten. i wait in the car at the humane society and notice how brown winter grass begins to tinge faint green. he returns carrying a coal black kitten and names him Mutzi. at home, wrapped in the patchwork quilt i made for him, he cradles the purring Mutzi. i am beside him. We stroke the kitten; for a brief moment our hands touch. common groUnd_HUGHES 63 64 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 2.10 regreT Frances Condon a t bedtime, i ease my mom out of her clothes and into a nightdress. she is tired on this night. her face is gray with exhaustion and her body loose and floppy. she closes her eyes before i buckle her into the lift for a transfer to the bed, as if she’s going to sleep right now. “Mom!” i say. “You have to stay awake for this; i can’t do it alone.” she opens her eyes and stares at me as if i am a stranger, but doesn’t speak. i press the button on the lift to raise her from her chair and she leans her head into the sling and closes her eyes again. “Mom!” i speak more sternly now. “You have to stay awake for this. You’re not in your bed yet!” she opens her eyes but doesn’t raise her head. her hands begin to slip off the handles. the lift terrifies me. if it should fail or if i do, if she slips out of the sling, if the lift tips she will fall and fall hard. But what i’m feeling now is more than fear. i’m furious. she isn’t trying; she isn’t fighting. she has checked out and left me here alone to wrestle with this heavy limp body in which there is no one home. “Mom!” i’m yelling. “this is your body! this is your life! come on! You have to help me; i cannot do this alone! Wake up and fight!” i lower her onto the bed, unclip the sling from the lift, muscle her heavy legs onto the bed and lay her down. i pull the blankets up to her chin and her eyes open, clear and blue and alert. “Why are you so mean to me?” she is right. i am mean. i’m nearly fifty years old and i’m tired of so much work and worry. and, if i am honest, i resent the work less than the constant worry. am i doing this right? am i making her worse or better? her life is in my hands and what if i make a mistake? What if i fail? she will die and it will be my fault. no matter what her death will be my fault. it sounds small and petty and awful, really, but there are still days when i would like a mom who could take care of me, who could watch my kids for a weekend, host a dinner party with me, go on a vacation leaving me to use my time as i please, or, truthfully, who i could leave if even for a few days without wondering whether she’ll be alive when i return. a mom who stays present with me, who i can see fighting for her life and for mine. regret_CONDON 65 My mom was raised among a generation of women whose job it was to make their work look easy. consider, for a moment, the dinner party. My mother cleans and cooks for days. i help her polish the silver and dust because i like those jobs. My brother and sister have a few tasks as well. My father sharpens the knives for carving roasts or turkeys. But my mother . . . well, she’s on her knees cleaning the oven, scrubbing floors, yanking canapés out of the oven, peeling potatoes, vacuuming. Before driving to her office at the university to work a full day and after, she is making a perfect house, a perfect meal, a perfect life. By the time the guests arrive, she is dressed and coiffed and smiling, pouring glasses of wine and chatting smartly as she invites them to a table perfectly laid, for a meal perfectly prepared. “how do you manage it all, suzy?” they say, and she smiles. “oh, it was nothing; i’m just so glad you’re here.” My mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1973. i was eleven years old. she wanted to keep the diagnosis a secret, but my dad told me about it in the car one day. “You have to help us, you have to help your mother,” he said. “i will, Dad. i’ll try,” i said. i have tried. and i’ve tried to make helping look easy, because that’s what we do. But there are times, when someone says to me, “how do you manage it all, frankie?” that i want to say, “i don’t! i don’t manage it. i hate it, hate the whole thing, hate my mother for needing this, hate my siblings for not helping more, hate the whole damn universe for laying this work, this worry before me.” But i don’t say that. i say, “oh, this is what we do, what we are made for: to care for one another. i’m honored to do this for my mom.” and that’s true too, but not the whole truth. the truth will not concede to language, to a simple, easy story told in a single sitting and ending happily or sadly, to ending at all. the truth will not submit easily to being told any more than my mother’s body will submit easily to the disease that slowly, insidiously, inexorably creeps through her, taking her one myelin sheath at a time from me and from the world. her body hangs on to life, refuses to stop fighting, but there’s no disguising the fact of the fight now. it’s hard work and my mom is tired. and i am mean and have always been so. our hometown had one long main street. at night we, teenagers, cruised this strip in our cars, blasting Billy Joel on our eight track tape players, and calling to one another at stoplights, meeting up in parking lots to share an illicit cigarette or a beer one of us had stolen from our parents. During the daylight hours, my mom and i walked up and down this street, doing errands or making our way to her favorite restaurant for a lunch or dinner with her friends. My mom felt compelled to make this walk look easy. My job was to help her carry off that performance. she would slip her arm through mine and we would go—as if we were simply mother and daughter out enjoying a stroll and our closeness to one another. But my mother labored to keep one foot moving after the other, to disguise her stum66 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG bling gait. My job was to let her lean on me, to prevent her from falling, and to keep that smile plastered on my face so that no one would know. My skin crawled at her touch. i was the teenager walking arm in arm with my mother, with my mother! While the popular boys and girls drove by and stared, laughing at my dependence on my mother, i walked on, swallowing my mortification, wishing i were anywhere else, anyone else than that girl. and i thought to myself, “if you would just sit down in a damn wheelchair! i could push you and you’d be you and i’d be me and, please, please, please just get a goddamned wheelchair and sit in it!” there came a time, of course, when there was no choice, but to sit in a wheelchair. My dad had died and my mother was alone. she moved to town and bought herself a motorized scooter so she could drive herself to and from work. Mom couldn’t climb stairs and the building in which she worked had no elevator, so, forced by the passage of the americans with Disabilities act, the university installed a lift outside that would carry her up to a fire escape on the second floor. she called that lift “satan.” if you didn’t get the gate closed just right behind you (a feat from the seat of the scooter), it would jiggle off its latch halfway up and the lift would stop between floors. in the rain or the snow my mom would sit, stuck, while her students peered out, faces pressed against the window of the classroom where they waited for her. there my mom would wait for rescue—a spectacle—then wheel finally into class half an hour late as if she weren’t soaked and bedraggled, to make teaching look easy, as if her students hadn’t seen, didn’t know, how much effort it had cost her to get there. My mom is a social creature. While she was still working her greatest pleasures, i am sure, were her students and her colleagues. Long conversations in her office, lunches filled with laughter and gossip at the local Wendy’s, dinners and parties, concerts and art shows: these were her joys. she debated politics and historical interpretations, fought with college administrators and recalcitrant colleagues, started a local chapter of the national organization for Women, then took on the local school district to fight for title ix rights for girls in our school. and loved every minute of it all and made it all look easy. “talk to me,” my mom says to me now when i come home from my job at the university. and i want to, i really do. But the work i do, so much like the work she did, takes it out of me. When i was very small and my mom was hosting a dinner party, i liked to crawl under our mammoth dining room table—the same one that now graces my dining room—curl up there and listen, letting her voice and her laughter roll over and through me. after dinner, my mom’s friend, Joel, would sit on the floor of our living room with me playing penny pitch and letting me win. and i could listen, just listen to the talk around us. even now, i like the edges, the peripheries, or the underneath places where i can live with my words swirling in my mind, constellating them into sentences i might write one day. i know how to regret_CONDON 67 play a social creature, but the performance tires me and, when it is done, i want, i need a place to hide away and think. “talk to me,” she says at the end of a day. But i can’t; i don’t want to; i won’t. the only real freedom and release i know lies in those words in my mind and i want that freedom. i have to have it. so i say, “i’m sorry, mom, i don’t know what to say.” and her eyes go foggy once more. “Why are you so mean to me?” When i was younger—in my twenties, perhaps—and my mom was a bit more mobile, though still largely relying on a wheelchair, we traveled to england together. We rented a car and drove together from cambridge to the cornish coast, across wide moors where we laughed at the dozey sheep standing in the road, preventing our passage. We stopped for a meal at the place where Daphne du Maurier set her novel, Jamaica Inn, and i left my mother for a short while to wander and imagine the wreckers luring ships onto the rocks to plunder their stores. We found a hotel with an accessible room in st. ives: a huge resort with an enormous dining room—the kind where one imagines professional dance partners picking up old dames in the twenties or soldiers from the world wars waiting for transport to the front. i pushed mom, in her chair along the streets of st. ives, window shopping with her and then stopping for a cup of tea. at the port, we noticed a sign for boat rides to watch the seals that make their home along the coast. Mom thought we should go if we could. the old sailor with whom i made arrangements eyed my mom in her wheelchair without expression. he nodded at me and took our money. the pier was long and made of stone. the steps leading down to the ship had been hewn from that same rock and were pocked with centuries of saltwater and slick with seaweed. the sea frolicked on the open side of the steps and there was no railing to which those who traversed them might cling. i turned to the sailors in their sea-blue smocks waiting for us and said, “i can’t do this; i can’t get her down those steps.” Without speaking two of them stepped forward, one taking the back of her chair and the other the front. they lifted her, chair and all, and carried her easily down to the ship, across the gangplank, and wheeled her up to the bow where she could see the water, the sun, the seals, and feel the cornish wind on her face. When the trip was finished and we were back in port, the same two men returned as the other passengers ascended and carried mom, still in her chair, right back up those steps. they made it look so easy. in fact, they made it possible. the day, the sun, the wind, my mother’s presence in it. My mom’s eyes shone and she smiled as she thanked them—those men who could give her such a gift without question, without fear, without making the labor of the gift evident in the giving. for twenty-nine years i have kept the promise i made to my father, to try. some days, some months, some years, even, i’ve done better than others. and after all this time, i no longer know whose life i am fighting to sustain. Who will i be when she is gone, i wonder. small and pinched and mean with worry on the 68 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG outside, while my mind races wildly across the wide moors or stand against the wind on the cliffs of cornwall? or released into a generosity of spirit learned from my mother, through these years, and from the ones who come and go in our lives like those sailors so that i can be such a one as them—making a moment of joy possible and easy for another? or will i be someone else entirely? When she is gone, i imagine, i will take a teaspoon of her ashes back to cornwall, ride a ship again, and release her and maybe my sorrow as well to the waves and the wind and the seals. Maybe my husband will come with me and when we are back in port we will walk, without touching or talking, through the streets of st. ives to a lonely hill above the sea, sit there looking out across the water for a time, imagining my mother now rising from the waves to the upper regions of the universe and the nurseries of the stars, and let go of all the regret that attends being human, when humanity is necessary, but infinitely insufficient. Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion. —Dylan thomas regret_CONDON 69 2.11 a m oTher’s T rUTh Mary Willette Hughes from: fLiGht on neW WinGs healing through Poetry new worry turns round my mind like a stone lifted to light fear is my compass north i know the stone’s cold concave, its inward weight and sharp edge i hide the fearstone in daylight hours but at night, carry it to my soul’s secret room and hold it, with my son, in the curve of my heart 70 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 71 2.12 C ome h Umble s inner Jason Lewis ‘t here are things that happen in a life that stick with you like a scar from a foolish wound.’ that’s what i wanted to say to you, James, as we were talking just moments ago, as you told me your wife had left you and taken your children, that you had been with another woman—a woman you do not love—and now it has ruined you. i have tried several times to pick up the phone again and call you, to tell you this story in an attempt to help you with your current plight—there’s something true in it, something i hope might help you—but i can’t, so i am writing it down. now that the final season of my life is in full bloom i see myself as a fraud, a coward, hiding behind paper. there was the father that i wanted to be: steadfast, resolute, honorable. and the father i fear that i was. i tried to be strong, but i fear that i confused distance and intractability with strength. in place of wisdom i’ve given you half-stories, half-truths. i left out what i thought you didn’t need to know, what i thought you couldn’t handle, and now here we are. a young man died on the football field in the fall of 1970. Your life is tied to his in more ways than you can imagine. You asked me once as we watched a game together if i was there the night it happened, if i saw it, and i told you one of my half truths—a lie, if i’m to get down to it. i was there, yes, but i didn’t see it happen. Your mother and i had been married then for five years. she never wanted to live in Vandalia. after we married, your mother was ready go adventuring to some big city or another. one week it was california, the next it was new York. for a while she had Paris on her brain, but back then men made the decisions and West Virginia was what i knew. Vandalia was a good town. everyone knew everyone but stayed out of each other’s business. there was a rhythm to it and it made sense. now, teet’s store is a parking garage for the new municipal building and the drug store sells antiques, but most of what they sell just looks like junk. they actually had teet’s old sign in there and wanted fifty dollars for it. i still see that 72 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG sign brand new being lifted off a flat-bed and hoisted onto the iron pole outside the store where it hung for almost forty years. Maybe that’s what senile is: seeing the world through layers of time and not having the ability to process it. i took the teaching job at the high school soon after we came back. it was strange at first, walking the halls of the school where i had been a student. Your mother secretaried three days a week at the dentist’s office and we saved until we could buy the house. it was one of the first homes built in town, owned by a wealthy family who had something to do with bringing the railroad in. But for most of the twentieth century it had been allowed to molder along with its sole occupant, Vida Peabody eustace. the first job i undertook when we bought the house was to remove all her possessions from it. the woman never threw a thing away. i found newspapers dated all the way back to the Depression. i kept some of them for years in the attic and when i went back for them they turned to dust in the heat. i wanted to show them to you. in some rooms she had only left herself narrow pathways to navigate. the musty, fetid smell of the place turned my stomach a little, but the condition of the house was the reason we could afford it and it was attractive to me to be able to walk to the school and live in town after spending my youth in the hills. i still recall the first night we spent in the house. it was hot, still a few years before i had the insulation put in and years more before the air conditioning was installed. We had two twin mattresses and frames—the mattresses your uncle Joe and i slept on when we were boys. they were pushed together in the master bedroom and you mother took a bath before she came to bed. there, amongst the dust and smells of Vida Peabody eustace’s closed-in life slowly escaping through the open windows, your mother smelled of rose water and i lay there with my eyes closed breathing her in. i held her after she was asleep and nearly cried, feeling foolish and happy. We grew into the house over the next few years. i settled into the life of a teacher and your mother continued to work for the dentist for a while. i replaced rotted wood on the porch steps, re-shingled the roof and learned to patch the horse-hair plaster walls. We stripped off layer after layer of wallpaper and painted the walls clean, bright colors. and we tried to have a baby. early on, after failing for a year or so, we went to the doctor he told us that, as far as he could tell, there was nothing wrong at all, that we would just have to be patient, keep trying and have faith. i wanted to believe him. i prayed, lying in bed at night after your mother went to sleep. i moved my lips silently over words i was afraid to say aloud. another part of me wondered what we had done to deserve to be punished. soon after that, i stopped coming to bed when your mother did, waiting until after she was asleep to gently slip under the covers. i don’t know why. it was like deciding to skip a morning walk, one day, then the next, then you can’t remember what the morning walks were like. it wasn’t that i didn’t love her come hUmBle Sinner_LEWIS 73 or didn’t want to have a child. i was afraid that it wouldn’t happen and i didn’t know how i would cope with that. there was a cooling between us. We never talked about what was happening and maybe we should have. this was before psychotherapy and couples counseling. We lived together, talked every day, ate meals together, but i was lonely. i missed her. and as the months turned to years, she began to sour. she closed herself off and rarely left the house. she stopped making herself up and quit working for the dentist. i went to school each day, kissing her absently and pretended that nothing was wrong. i miss the house now that i am out of it. You were right. it was too big a responsibility for me, especially with your mother gone. i am proud that all the work i did over the years helped fetch a good price for it. i know you felt uncomfortable putting me here. it had to be hard. the look on your face when you told me you wanted to bring me here to see the place, that you were worried after i fell in the yard. this place isn’t so bad, although the food needs some spice. there’s a nice window in the cafeteria where i can sit and look out toward the lake. When the wind blows through the arbor i can see a sliver of water through the trees glinting in the sun and i think that’s what heaven will look like as i approach it—if i approach it. one afternoon toward the end of our fourth summer in the house, your mother and i had just finished lunch together (tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches with pepper). the sun cut across the linoleum and cast a warm summertime gloom over us. Your mother had collected the plates and taken them to the sink to wash. i was thinking about clearing some brush at the property line, maybe planting a stand of trees, something that would grow tall and filter the harsh afternoon sun from the back of the house. We’d hardly said a word to one another during lunch. there was nothing unusual about the day, but i could feel tension radiating from her. “Might be nice to plant a few shade trees in the back,” i said. she was rinsing our sandwich plates. she stopped and turned to me, still holding a dish. she threw it at me. it missed and smashed against the wall. she said, “sometimes i hate you so much,” through her teeth, hissing like a possum. i stared at her, shocked and dismayed, as though she had just transformed before my eyes from the quiet woman i had lived with for five years to a feral cat. i was about to speak, to say something, i fear, that would have wanted to immediately take back when she put down the dish rag and walked out of the room, the water still running. i sat there for a long time listening to the sound of it trickle down the drain. the rest of the afternoon i stayed out of the house and that evening i ate my dinner on the porch. Your mother had made a plate she for me while i was 74 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG working in the yard and left it warming in the oven. i heard her upstairs moving around and i didn’t call out to her, happy enough to eat alone. i held the plate on my knees and watched the light begin to fail. When i was finished she joined me on the porch. We didn’t talk about what happened. We never did. instead, we sat silently for a while watching birds flit in and out of the trees. there was a family of bluebirds that lived around the house then and i liked to watch them. We talked about the neighbors and the habit they had of letting their grass grow a little too long before they cut it then i went inside to read in the arm chair by the bedroom window. i was reading Mark twain that night, a connecticut Yankee in King arthur’s court. i was thinking of teaching it and hadn’t looked at it since i was a boy. When the room was nearly dark your mother came in and undressed, her skin, white as bone, almost phosphorescent in the half light, her limbs supple, her neck long and her eyes soft. she came to me and sat on my lap. “i’m sorry,” she said and i touched her hair and we made love. Maybe you don’t want to hear about that, but it is one of the most beautiful memories i have of her. suddenly, it felt like we were beginning again and i went to sleep that night feeling happy and satisfied for the first time in years. i was sure that this was the breakthrough. now a child would come. a few days later her visitor came instead. i heard her crying in the bathroom and i went to her but she wouldn’t face me, back rigid, hands over her face. the house grew quiet and colder still. i did teach the twain to begin the year. i always liked to start with something fun to pull the children out of the jumble of summer and into the structure of school life. there was a girl in my senior class that year named Kathleen alder. she had been in my junior class the year before and she was a bright girl. she was one of those students who seemed so ready to take in everything put in front of her. a student like Kathleen came along once every few years, and she was my first. she was striking—curly auburn hair to her shoulders that moved like a living thing. she was tall, and rounded and had deep hazel eyes that seemed to change colors like a sharkskin jacket. she came from a long line of staunch revivalists—a strict clan who kept to themselves. there were rumors of in-breeding and other terrible things; family members were rarely seen in town and Kathleen’s generation was the first to attend school beyond primary levels, and that at the insistence of the government. Long before i was born, her great-grandfather started a church attended by extended family only. they were Baptist by definition, but a mutated strain, known for snake handling and speaking in tongues, but as strange as that may seem now, that wasn’t all that strange then. What made them unique was their music. seemingly each member of the family, for as far back as anyone could remember, was gifted with music—singing, fiddle, banjo, guitar, it didn’t matter the instrument—if touched by an alder, it would sing like heaven itself. it was rare that anyone of the family performed publicly, but one year when i was a boy, three come hUmBle Sinner_LEWIS 75 of the women were cajoled into singing hymns at the fireman’s fair. i was in the audience, drug there against my will by my mother, who held the same curiosity as everyone else: Would they be as good as rumored? those three women, one of which was Kathleen’s young mother, stood on the stage, backs board straight, and sang three hymns. i can’t remember what they were, but i recall the sound of those voices following each other so close together it was hard to tell one from the other. it was like magic. that was the first time music gave me chills. a few years later one of the boys, James alder, started playing in a hillbilly band around town. this was not allowed. When his father found out James had been sneaking out at night and playing in roadhouses the boy disappeared for almost a year. When i saw him again he was thin and nervous, pale as powder. i felt bad for him. he seemed like a nice boy. the alders never performed outside their church again. one sunday morning your mother and i stopped outside their church. We were on the way to Blackwater falls for a picnic. “can’t we stop for a minute and listen,” she said. “i’ve heard their music is beautiful.” i let the car idle at the shoulder just beyond the chapel. a song floated from the bleached clapboard building like ground fog, filling up the hollow with the haunting tune. it was both meticulous and rough around the edges, the voices like saw blades running through young tree limbs. there is nothing like it i have heard before or since. this was early in the same school year i’ve been writing about and i couldn’t stop myself from thinking of Kathleen in there, singing, head tilted toward the rafters. as the song ended, a man emerged from the door, shotgun in hand and stared at us until i put the car in gear and we drove on. i don’t know if it was the trouble your mother and i were having or the beginnings of what they call mid-life crisis these days, but Kathleen was in my thoughts that fall. i didn’t talk to her outside the confines of the class discussion, but i started roaming the halls like a school boy hoping to catch a glimpse of her as she walked to her next class. i learned her schedule and made a ritual of being where i knew she would be throughout the day. i got butterflies in my stomach every time i saw her. it makes me sick with myself just thinking about it. early in november, Kathleen wasn’t in school for a week. When she came back, there was a yellow-green ghost of a bruise haloing her left cheekbone. i wanted to say something then, to pull her aside after class and ask if everything was all right, but i didn’t. You have to understand that this was back when it was still a ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ world and it wasn’t the place of teachers to get involved in family business. the week passed, the bruise faded and i continued to follow her through the halls, pining after her. that time of year has always been my favorite. the West Virginia hills set afire by the leaves turning, the smell of the air going cooler, the feel of the night 76 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG air as i stood on the back porch and watched the clouds go red and the coming early darkness silhouetting the mountains—halloween, harvest moons, football. that season the stars lined up for us and the football team went through the first nine games of the regular season undefeated. a boy named Jackson cleave (who was a senior and also in my class that year) emerged as running back and seemed to move through defenses like a spirit. he ran for well over a thousand yards that year and held the single season yardage record until the mid-eighties. Later that year, he was offered a scholarship to WVu, but joined the Marines instead and was shipped off to Vietnam the following spring. the final game was against Morgantown. We hadn’t beaten them since 1959 and if we did, there was talk about going to states. that friday, all the students wore gold and black to school, as became the tradition later on. in the teachers lounge, speculation and hope replaced griping over rowdy students and wheedling out of bus monitoring. even your mother got caught up in the fervor, if you can believe it. each home game, she sat by the window in the kitchen and looked out over the rooftops toward the field and listened. i was one of the teachers assigned to police the concourse that ringed field to make sure that the students didn’t slip off to the parking lot while the game was going on. Mostly, i stood by the steps at the back of the school building and watched the game. “You can come down to the game, you know,” i told you mother. she was putting the dinner dishes away, the radio already tuned to the local aM station. “i just don’t feel like being around people,” she said. “it makes me nervous.” she wiped her hands on a dish towel. “ “i’d like it if you came,” i said. “i like listening on the radio and looking out the window.” she seemed very far away from me at that moment. i stood in the collecting dusk, across the room from her, and wanted to say something to change the world. no words came. she went back to her chores and i went to the hall closet for my coat. i left without saying goodbye. the lights were already bright over the field and the band was wheezing through their pregame warm-ups. the night air raised the hairs on the back of my neck. it was early yet and the rest of the teachers weren’t at their posts, so i took mine without having to chit chat on the way. i smoked cigarette after cigarette (they weren’t so bad for you back then) and the bleachers filled slowly, like water seeping into a newly dug hole. People passed me on their way to their seats talking of ‘what ifs.’ i became giddy with possibility. Morgantown won the coin flip and elected to take the ball first. You could almost feel the hope of everyone in the stands rising toward the heavens; the air itself seemed to vibrate. our boys unfurled across the field at the thirty-five and the ball leapt off the kicker’s foot. as one, we wished righteous violence on the come hUmBle Sinner_LEWIS 77 boy who waited under the ball. he was a small black boy and fast. o.J. simpson was a hero in those days and this boy wore his number thirty-two. there weren’t too many blacks around Vandalia in those days, and i know there were more than a few folks in the crowd that night that had never seen a black person up close. the boy caught that ball and his white shoes flashed like a piteousness of doves to the sideline and up the field. no one could touch him and he scored before ten seconds ticked off the clock. the cheering and stomping from the visitor’s side of the field rang out. i was crestfallen. the feeling of hopelessness that hung on me as i left the house bore down and seemed to engulf the whole crowd. our boys took the field jumping and hollering at each other, trying to shake off the blow, but they gave the ball back after fumbling the second snap and Morgantown scored again quickly. i couldn’t watch anymore and sat down on the steps to the parking lot and looked out over the cars that stretched from the teachers lot all the way out over the open field beside the school. the pasture occupied the same natural depression that football field was built on and was ringed by a long, thin copse of trees. the students called them the ‘Burning Bushes’ because it was a popular make out spot. the name always made me laugh. a few years later they built the school annex and the Bushes were cleared for additional parking. i saw a figure moving through the trees. it was part of my duty to foil any assignations taking place in the Bushes during the game so i stood and moved through the cars until i came at the bottom of the little rise. i heard singing— “Come, humble sinner, a thousand thoughts revolve, come with your guilt and fear oppress’d and make this last resolve.” the words were faint, half-formed, sung for the singer. Kathleen moved through the trees slowly, i could see her hair blending with the leaf cover, so similar in color and movement that it seemed a part of the foliage. the pace of the song was almost martial but beautiful and lilting in the way it rose toward the end. she held the last note so long that it ceased to represent the word it formed and became the sound of a world unknown. i was frozen in place at the bottom of the hill. she stopped moving then and sat down. there was silence for a while, distant groaning from the crowd. i heard her crying and i listened for a moment until i built the courage to walk through the bramble to where she sat facing the school. “are you all right?” i asked. she didn’t answer for a moment and then said, “no.” i didn’t know what to say so i sat down beside her. “Do you want to talk about anything,” i said. she continued to look out over the field. “i’m not supposed to be here,” she said. i let the words stand alone for a moment and then she continued. “My daddy said i wasn’t supposed to leave the house but i did.” 78 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG “i noticed you weren’t in school last week.” she tilted her head back and tried not to cry. i reached out and held my hand over her shoulder. she shook with her sobbing and all the while i kept my hand poised behind her. then i rested it lightly on her spine. at first she froze and i almost took my hand away, but she then slid into the crook of my elbow and buried her face in my breast. she felt good there, i’m embarrassed to say. “it’s all right,” i said. “everything will be all right.” We stayed that way for a long time. i felt the warmth of her breath through my light jacket. “i’m going to run away tonight,” she said. “Where will you go?” “anywhere.” “anywhere’s a big place.” “i stole money from the church. it’s enough to get somewhere.” “Why?” “Daddy says i’m to marry arden flowers.” i knew the boy, slow and dull. he was somehow a relation to her. “he’s your cousin?” i said. “second.” i listened to the crowd noise coming from the football field. “Why does he want you to marry him?” “Because it’s his time to marry and i’m the right age. Mommy says that’s how she married Daddy and she’s happy.” My mouth opened and closed as i tried to find the right words. i was shocked. and also jealous. “things may seem bad now,” i said, “but they will work out. You’ll see.” she looked up and me and furrowed her brow. her eyes glinted green, then brown. so beautiful and hurt. i leaned down and kissed her mouth. her lips were hot and swollen from crying and they were soft. she pulled away. “Don’t, Mr. conroy.” she moved away from me, but didn’t get up. “i’m sorry,” i said finally. she was crying again. “i’m in love with someone.” “Who?” My stomach turned over. “Jackson cleave.” i was caught between the agony of what i’d just done and crippling envy. “he’s a good boy,” i said after a moment. she was crying again. i almost touched her shoulder but stopped myself. i rubbed my arms and looked at her. finally, she stood to leave. “Please don’t tell anyone about this.” i said. how terrible my guilt and fear were at that moment, as the gravity of what i’d done seeped into me. come hUmBle Sinner_LEWIS 79 “i won’t,” she said. i took in a deep breath of relief. “i’m sorry,” i said. “i won’t say anything.” “thank you.” i said. then she was gone, moving toward the field and the game. i watched her until she disappeared from view. What would i do? how could i live with myself after this? slowly, the thought of her forced marriage came to me. But what could i do? across the parking lot, the crowd noise grew. smething was happening on the field. and, all at once, the roar stopped. People moved quickly along the walkway toward the field. something was wrong. i pushed out of the bramble and ran back to the field. i pounded up the stairs to my vacant post. a knot of people encircled a small patch of ground in the end zone. i could see a pair of unmoving legs, white pants giving way to dark skin, then white socks, white shoes. Men were pushing on the crowd to hold everyone back while a few others knelt over the boy. i waited and watched to see him move and he didn’t. Later, it was told that he had broken his neck diving over two of our boys into the end zone. he jumped, got hit low and flipped end over end, and landed on his head. the impact snapped his spinal cord, killing him, but only after he lived there, frozen on the field for a few long moments. it was his fourth touchdown of the day. Years later i saw one of the boys who hit him at church. We were in the basement having cake after a late summer service. We talked about that day, though how we reached the subject i can’t recall. “i saw his eyes die,” he said and, in the way he said it, i could see it too. Kathleen was standing a few feet away from me when i looked away from the scene. she was close enough that i could reach out and touch her, but i saw that she was not looking at the boy lying on the field, but at Jackson cleave. and Jackson was looking back at her. a man in a dark blazer appeared beside her through the crowd, then another. then the young man who had stood outside the church with the shotgun took her by the arm. they lead her away and she looked at Jackson, then at me, pleading for help, but i let her go. the crowd gathered against the rail swallowed her and she was gone. i walked down to the field where i asked the principal if there was anything i could do to help. he was pale and shaking. he had a son in Vietnam and i think maybe he saw his own boy lying there in the grass. Death was everywhere in those days. Boys were going to the war and not coming back and no one was sure why, but we let them go because our fathers had gone and their fathers before them. Mothers buried empty coffins. one year later, Jackson cleave would die in the jungle as well. 80 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG the principal looked at me until he could gather himself and told me to go back to my post and make sure the children were safe. i stood with the rest of the town and watched as the ambulance came and they removed the boy from the field. slowly people started moving away until i was there standing on the concourse looking at the torn up field. there was a halo of brown around the place where the boy had been. i felt exposed under the dark, cloudless sky. Your mother was still in the kitchen when i finally got home that night. i walked through the dark house, following the kitchen light and found her sitting at the table looking out the window toward the school. “Did he die?” she asked. i nodded and looked at the floor. she put her head on her folded arms. “it was awful,” i said and sat beside her. We turned off the radio and the lights and felt our way upstairs in the dark. We undressed, climbed into bed and fell asleep holding one another for the first time in a long time. for a while after that we stopped trying to have a child, and then we began again. 2.13 q UieTer Jeff Carmack Quieter Quieter you can’t sneak past a blind dog. Quieter even with nothing to say, you still speak volumes Quieter as two o’clock rings out over the countryside, the tone lingers Quieter a couple of men laugh about hiding their smoking behind the coke machine QUieter_CARMACK 81 Quieter a couple of women pass one says, “Well, everything happens for a reason.” the other, “Yeah, that’s what i told Jake.” Quieter Must have been a layoff, the money doesn’t talk no more. Quieter the footsteps of the day, a grassy cushion gently lifting up and giving way. Quieter the path is mystery, both ancient and new for the first time ever like this Quieter the breath of the earth is a kiss to all Quieter the man is 87 years old, pleasantly surprise about his knee replacement surgery, and skipping down the summer street in his mind, the cane is for twirling and rest, but mostly twirling. Quieter whether intended or not, God is present Quieter when the moment changes Quieter the stories we create in life and in love Quieter strong patience unsure how to place a flying heart in a world where few realize they are always touching the sky Quieter body language, the reality behind a touch Quieter the quality of silence is one of the many songs of the soul Quieter Quieter Quieter 82 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 2.14 CUrsive mermaid ink Aksania Xenogrette you traded coins out on the strand for weekenders who imagined you were a marvel of modern science telling fortunes in a skill crane you slaked the heartsick telling a story tethered to a line along the breakwater slag you sang the song of sea-swallows painting the faces of dead lovers in oil on the surface of spring harbor in the autumn forest you were nursing your baby in the river a hunting party lighted upon you shooting off buck-shot and coarse words you placed your baby upon a rock and turned into a brook horse thundered up the steep bank and trampled all save one into blood and broken bones you bit into the fair youth’s chest trotted back down to the river bank with his heart held in your mouth and fed it to your baby son. cUrSive mermaid ink_XENOGRETTE 83 your hooves splashed into the current, fishing in the silt for fingertips and supple elbows, speckled thighs flowing into a tail finely sewn in the dream of seared rose petals and hot wax with shimmering tendrils sprung from your mane we had taken to huffing gasoline to break up the days. i put vinyl sunglasses over your eyes and wrote in sloppy cursive with lipstick on the lenses reflected in my hand-maiden’s mirror. i pried out one of your teeth and went on a diet of limpets plucked from bridge platforms and the bones of the cellist whose lungs i collapsed to rid you of distraction. with double-minded spite for wings i found your doorstep sidewalk, in the form of a gnat i flew into your face to lick a pearl of sweat from the channel between your nose and coral lips. your fingertips smashed me and still you clutch your purse. one day the thin tissue of constraint will burst like your eyes when i drag you into the deep. 84 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 2.15 afTer b irTh Brian Baumgart Because home is the softest word i try to apply it to every place i am. Before texas, home meant liquid warmth inside my mother’s belly, where only my brother had been before. after birth dry sands settled on carpeting i want to call shag. i breathed sand for years, so close to ground i could have called it home, too. northward to humidity where sand falls more in snow than summer, mixed with salt to season the roads and to keep us all from slipping toward the final home. Home, with legs up to knees below the surface of creeks, disappeared in murk. once i fell on purpose headfirst into the water, just to see how it would feel. faked slipping off the edge of a fallen tree, its roots mammoth fingers stretched from cracked earth. one arm hit first, crashed through the surface, but it surprised me for i had expected my hand to hold—flat palm slapping smooth water. cold beneath, far too cold, even in the heat of summer. i curled knees to chin, arms wrapped close, fingers around elbows, and i spun lazy circles in space. When i popped back out, i kept cold for hours, though the sun after Birth_BAUMGART 85 still shone through clear blue, its own home in the sky. for days i dug granules of sand from my scalp, found sand in my nose, coughed it from my throat. tasted creek water like road salt—thick and scratching. Wondered which home i would disappear into, and if it would be on purpose or the softest accident. 86 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 2.16 “i had forgoTTen hoW iT felT Walking on The beaCh afTer a hUrriCane ” Leslie Council i had forgotten how it felt walking on the beach after a hurricane the cool sands still soaked from the rising tides cooler than the free sun kissed grains closer to the peer the busy street bloody footprints followed me unnoticed where i stepped on a sharp remnant of your underground atlantis the mer-people staring up through the waters wondering what debris falls upon their lair in musky black oil sinking animals resurrected in the underworld where they play “i had forgotten hoW it felt Walking on the Beach after a hUrricane”_COUNCIL 87 a bucket full of seashells bag of syringes and used medical supplies and a slimy snail later night foam nestles on ankles of my rolled up khakis footprints washed away and a paper heart is tangled on fishing line tattered and torn, but still red still transporting love along the way . . . 88 2_the conVerGence of LiVes: KeeP it BeatinG 3 a he art’ s r e aso n fo r B eatinG 1. if yoU do thiS Work REX VEEDER 7. mi corazon DENISE VANBRIGGLE 2. trUth throUgh fiction JESSICA LOUREY 8. graylock 9. tUtUWaS JOE BRUCHAC 3. hoPe CAROL ALLIS 4. Safe WENDY BROWN-BÁEZ 5. from amy lam Wai man’S inStallation Piece “ancient Blood WorkS” DONNA SNYDER 10. give thankS JEANA STRONG 11. the ekg WENDY BROWN-BÁEZ 12. When i laUgh hard i feel like i Will live forever JOHN JODZIO 6. healing PoWer of a letter STEVE TUYTSCHAEVERS 89 90 3.1 if y oU d o T his W ork Rex Veeder if you do this work keep your bags packed you are seldom at home anywhere always a guest careful not to break the family dishes. if you do this work expect to be hounded harped badgered and bullied by those who expect a unified vision which means their vision. if you do this work you will not be busy because busy will not mean anything you will be living with a heart of steel and the soul of do it, do it, do it. if you do this work expect to be a traitor to your race and all those things you promised but didn’t know you promised when you were born. You will be agitated but peaceful at the center of it if you do this work expect many will doubt your testimony if yoU do thiS Work_VEEDER 91 judge your character insinuate you are an ego without restraint that you are a complainer that what you experience yourself and through others is a fantasy expect to discover that imagining the lives of others is real. expect the heavy hand of self-examination to judge you as the others judge. expect your family to watch you the way horses watch with their eyes cocked to the side so you KnoW they wonder how to get you off their back and head for the barn. if you do this work you are a cross road a wreck, a radical not liberal or conservative you will not be invited to cheer at a tea or coffee an artful dodger dancer and dance entranced by humanity and in love but aware that love is not enough. if you do this work, you will be tested by everyone you count on and they will be right to test you you will become a storyteller and the listener of stories you will be on fire and hold a bucket of water yourself since others can’t save you. if you do this work, you better be part sky, part earth, part wind, part water, part fire and honor the seven directions. 92 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG if you do this work know what the seven directions are. if you do this work you will see things feel things be things you have not yet imagined and join a brotherhood and sisterhood that is always in the making and you will have lunch with Kachinas and dance with the delight of hoo Doo and light up like a star-eyed hipster while the shoppers in the mall just want sleep. if you do this work i warn you it will be real work your hands and heart will grow strong but scared you will have to learn so many languages your tongue will knot up and you will see your body wear out with the rub and tug of agitation you will know the death of many things and the coming to life of many things and you will never be finished never done and mainly you will accept that for all the discomfort toil and wrestling the smacks to the soft soul the breaking of bones the stops and starts of the heart that whatever it costs it is the work and whatever else you might do is not work but killing time and time does not die and as my friend is fond of saying it is good work if it is worth it and this work is. if yoU do thiS Work_VEEDER 93 3.2 TrUTh T hroUgh f iCTion Jessica Lourey Tell all the Truth but tell it slant — Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind — —Emily Dickinson o n september 13, 2001, i was in front of my multicultural lit class assigning a response essay. the class was small, five students, all of them in my technical communication program. We’d become a sort of tribe since i taught all but one of their courses. i remember being excited about the assignment. i don’t remember what i was wearing. i do remember i was growing my hair out, and that i was worried about the pregnancy weight i was putting on and whether or not something i’d elected to call “second Lunch” was doing me any favors. i remember being tired. it was a thursday. the door opened, and the college’s office administrator walked into the room. it was a first. she was unable to meet my eyes. “can you please come to the office?” “sure.” i grabbed my briefcase. i knew i wasn’t coming back. our final conversation ended exactly like this: hiM: You’re beautiful. Me: silence. hiM: I love you. 94 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG Me: I don’t think that means the same thing to you as it does to me. We’d been married for 24 days. i was three months pregnant. We’d timed it so that i could have the summer off after the baby was born, not expecting that we’d nail it on our first try. it was 9/11. the conference i’d been driving to in Minneapolis that morning had been unexpectedly canceled as college campuses all over the country shut down. We were under attack. i returned home to find something i hadn’t expected to find. sure, i devoured trixie Belden and nancy Drew growing up, but read mysteries as an adult? no thanks. i’d earned a Master’s degree in english, and if that doesn’t cure you of love for genre fiction, nothing will. i’d read most of the classics, explored the margins, analyzed poetry until there was nothing left on the page but brittle black words. i’d gone through a tom robbins stage, an anne rice stage, a carlos castaneda stage, but no mysteries. as an adult, i only read real books. there were two plainclothes detectives sitting in the Dean’s office. they rose hastily when we entered. the office administrator disappeared. i was with strangers. “is my daughter alright?” i asked them. she was three, and it was naptime in the daycare across the street. i knew she was fine because i would have known if she wasn’t. i also knew that my husband had killed himself. i had known i would be here, or somewhere like here, since the fist of blackbirds had flown at my car on the way back from the canceled conference two days earlier. it was their warning that made me go online to search his history, the coldness of their black bodies blocking out the sun that made me realize my life was never going to be the same after. But i couldn’t have known. he was not depressed. he was a successful Dnr scientist with a family who loved him. he made pies for the hospice care bake sale and volunteer coached the local youth soccer league. We were newlyweds with a baby on the way. and so i took the chair they offered, and i watched their faces, and i felt every part of me shut down except my eyes and my ears. they became disconnected recording devices, and so while i can recall the entire conversation, it doesn’t mean any more now than it did then. Just words. “Do you know where your husband is?” “um, we had a fight two days ago. he went to his house for sale. i haven’t heard from him.” they exchange glances again. their suits are nice. they look like what i imagine new York detectives look like, polished like stones. the detective who drew the short straw adjusts his collar. “Your husband has killed himself.” trUth throUgh fiction_LOUREY 95 i feel the baby kick, or do i just feel kicked? “When?” “he was found today, by a coworker. there was another murder suicide in their office two years ago, and they were worried for you and your daughter.” “he killed himself today?” “he was found today.” this is important. if he killed himself right after our fight, that meant i’d been thinking about a dead man, emailing a corpse, for two days. But i already knew the truth of that, too. his ghost had visited me the first night. Mysteries involve murder. they can also include sex, humor, and intrigue, but if it’s a grown-up mystery, people are going to expect a body, preferably in chapter 1. i knew this. everybody knows this. Mysteries are also formulaic, another widely accepted fact. What i didn’t know until my husband’s suicide was that mysteries are also, at their simplest, about understanding human nature and finding justice. i found myself suddenly, urgently needing both. a friend had lent me a sue Grafton alphabet mystery a couple years earlier. i read it, and then i went to the library and checked out more. When i read all of these, i turned to tony hillerman. then Janet evanovich. i was greedy, always a fast reader, stuffing one into my head, then another, and another. each one pulled dark secrets into the light. each one ended with the answers. We’re a pop psychology culture. We know the five stages of grief, and that alcoholism is a disease, that communication is key, that men are from Mars and women from Venus. here are things, however, that they don’t tell you about suicide: 1. if you hear the last words of your husband, and they come after he has made up his mind to end his life, you will forever be able to replay them in your head in Dolby surround sound. this is because there is an audible click that happens when a living man begins to speak like a dead man, and a dead man’s voice is terrifying. 2. the police officer at the station will mean well, but he still has to ask you if you want to take home the gun your husband shot himself with. if the officer is also new to the force, he may wonder aloud, with a mixture of awe and disgust, how a person could choose a muzzle-loading rifle to do the deed. finally, if he is both new to the force and young, he may hand you your husband’s glasses without noticing that they have tiny fragments of gray and red matter on them. 3. the phlebotomist taking your blood may not consider what brought you into her lab, or guess that after six agonizing weeks, you finally decided 96 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG to remove your wedding ring. she will only see a pregnant, single woman getting an hiV test, and you will disgust her. 4. the emergency room doctor who sees you when you are admitted because you are exhibiting the signs of a miscarriage will look at you with such sorrow and pity when he hears your story that you’ll want to comfort him. he will lean forward as if to hug you when the test results come back and he gets to tell you that your baby is safe, but he will stop himself from touching you. 5. trying to get a handle on grief without answers is like trying to take a picture of the world while you’re standing on it. i’d read thirty mysteries in a matter of weeks before i finally decided to write one. it was January of 2002. My belly was swollen. i could go an hour at a time without thinking of him. My brain and heart were starved. i lived on the end of a lonely country road that the plows visited last, and i saw how people were looking at me. eight months pregnant. husband killed himself. out there alone with a three-year-old, 40 miles from the nearest hospital. People wanted to help. they worried about me. i still carry that with me, all the worry they had, all the pain they tried to carry for me so i wouldn’t have to do it alone. not just my friends and family, but strangers reached out to hold me up, and they didn’t stop even after the funeral. Grief is very selfish, though, and so i could only watch and keep turning inward. Writing saved me. here’s how May Day, the first mystery i wrote, begins: I tried not to dwell on the fact that the only decent man in town had stood me up. Actually, he may have been the only literate, single man in a seventymile radius who was attracted to me and attractive. The warm buzz that was still between my legs tried to convince the dull murmur in my head that it was just a misunderstanding. To distract myself from thoughts of Jeff’s laugh, mouth, and hands, I downed a couple aspirin for my potato chip hangover and began the one job I truly enjoyed at the library: putting away the books. I glanced at the spines of the hardcovers in my hands and strolled over to the Pl-Sca aisle, thinking the only thing I really didn’t like about the job was picking magazine inserts off the floor. Certainly the reader saw them fall, but without fail, gravity was too intense to allow retrieval except by a trained library staff member. I bet I found three a day. But as I teetered down the carpeted aisle in my flowered heels, I discovered a new thing not to like: there was a guy lying on the tightweave Berber with his legs lockstep straight, his arms crossed over his chest, and a trUth throUgh fiction_LOUREY 97 reference book opened on his face. He was wearing a familiar blue-checked shirt, and if he was who I thought he was, I knew him intimately. A sour citrus taste rose at the back of my throat. Alone, the library aisle wasn’t strange; alone, the man wasn’t strange. Together, they made my heart slam through my knees. I prodded his crossed legs with my ridiculously shod foot and felt no warmth and no give. My eyes scoured the library in a calm panic, and I was aware of my neck creaking on its hinges. I could smell only books and stillness, tinged with a faintly coppery odor. Everything was in order except the probably dead man laid out neatly on the carpeting, wearing the same flannel I had seen him in two days earlier. I wondered chaotically if dead people could lie, if they still got to use verbs after they were gone, and if maybe this was the best excuse ever for missing a date. Then I had a full-body ice wash, five years all over again, a nightmare pinning me to my bed as I silently mouthed the word “mom.” Had proximity to me killed him? on april 30, 2002, i called my mom and asked if she’d stay overnight at my house. she had driven the two hours one way to stay overnight every Monday since Jay had killed himself, but this was a tuesday. My dad always visited when i asked, was regularly over to repaint walls and fix leaks, but he preferred his own bed. he asked if he could come with mom on the 30th, though. i said sure, i needed him to help carry some wood for the woodstove. My water broke that night, with my parents sleeping upstairs in the spare bedroom and my daughter tucked safely in her room. i wasn’t having contractions, but i called the hospital to give them a heads up that i’d be in soon. i’d called the hospital at least three times before to make advance arrangements for my daughter’s birth and then my son’s. each time, different people, always female, answered the phone the same impersonal way: “Douglas county hospital, how may i direct your call?” this time, the person on the other end of the line was a man. “this is Jay. how can i help you?” Jay. My husband’s name. i held the phone. “hello? is someone there?” “i’m having a baby.” “fantastic!” he sounded so excited i almost smiled. “has your water broken?” “Just now.” “first baby?” “second.” “Why don’t you come in now. We’ll take care of you.” 98 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG My dad stayed with my daughter so she could sleep through the night. My mom drove me in. Jay took care of everything. My son was born healthy, and looking exactly like his dad. i had planned a big sister party at the hospital, so my three-year-old daughter arrived to balloons, presents, and cake, all for her. she gathered it all around her and declared that having a little brother wasn’t half bad. i’ve never written nonfiction about my husband’s suicide before this essay, but if you know my story, you can find it in every mystery i write. My fears work themselves out in each book. i still hear his voice, i still fear the betrayal and loss that are around every corner, but i get to write the story, and at the end, the mystery is always solved. this is a slant way to deal with loss, but it’s the only way i can do it. only fiction offers me the truth. 3.3 hoPe Carol Allis sometimes those who struggle most fight the sweetest fight sometimes they learn the most surely, they bleed the hardest Do not, do not ever give up the world is a good place there are things around the corner You’ve never even dreamed of there are lessons to be learned and you’ll never know unless you go the distance hoPe_ALLIS 99 3.4 s afe Wendy Brown-Báez Life’s cup brims with surprise, detours, not what you had planned, not what you counted on, the open day, the wide awake night, the heart ache that crumbles your life into torn paper. Like the valentine found in the bottom of the box, the one you labored over with your sticky hands, the miniature hearts you cut carefully from the lace doily and now you see are crooked and childish, but you were so determined, so proud to write the sloping letters by yourself, the way you imagined the look on your mother’s face when you placed it in her hand. the construction paper is faded but not the love, it still beams out, it still takes you by surprise. how you could go so far away from home and be so independent, how suddenly when you felt the first stitch of madness and fear you wanted to go home, how home never meant all the places you paid the rent and bought new rugs or new plates to line up in the cupboard but this one place where someone will take care of you. the last blow cracked it all to pieces, and then you fell into the warmth of hugs when they picked you up at the airport, fell into the hot cup of tea placed in your hand, the matching cotton sheets beneath the quilt, knowing there is nothing left to do but to be safe. 100 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG 3.5 from a my l am W ai m an’ s i nsTallaTion P ieCe “anCienT b lood W orks” Donna Snyder We perceive and are perceived and that constructs who we are repulsive in our humanity Yet the warm red blood the puckered flesh provide the tactile details that make a body sing i am larger than life and so by definition confrontational immediate and intimate because you get up close every day we redefine our relationship to the three-dimensional world exposed & vulnerable Meant to be touched the way he was treated both saddened and angered me the memory resides there in my wettest cells not meant to be touched the brain & the heart are in relation there are needles & stitches there are the ties that bind there’s a wire wrapped around my throat that won’t let me speak my grief or my joy there is a release to be found in death and in life there is a release to be found from amy lam Wai man’S inStallation Piece “ancient Blood WorkS”_SNYDER 101 3.6 healing P oWer of a l eTTer Steve Tuytschaevers “h e just up and left us.” the veteran i was talking with was a woman in her late 20s, and she had achieved the rank of sergeant first class in a comparatively quick pace, but we weren’t talking about combat trauma. i told her about my desire to go into narrative therapy based on my own recovery over PtsD, and how the act of writing did wonders for my self-awareness. she shared with me a very similar story, only one that involved her as a young teenager. one day, when she was thirteen or fourteen years old, she woke up alongside her younger sister and her mother to find her father gone. he didn’t leave a note, and he never called the house. he just vanished from their lives. “You always hear those stories about dads going to get a pack of cigarettes and never returning. My dad didn’t smoke, but he didn’t come home either.” i could see in her eyes how the memory of that morning still impacted her, and knew intimately how deep memories can root themselves to our lives. My father was a Vietnam veteran who eventually lost a 30-year-long battle with alcoholism. his demons had taken their toll on the rest of my family as well. Me especially. “that must have been a terrible time for the three of you,” i offered empathetically. “how did you handle such loss at such a young age?” she gave a soft laugh at this and her gaze diverted to the desk, fiddling with a pen between her fingers. “i didn’t handle it very well at all. i was confused, frightened, and angry, and my mom had an impossible time with me.” she then seemed suddenly startled by a thought, and reached below the desk to retrieve her purse. she pulled out an envelope with no address or markings of any kind, just an envelope that had the appearance of being trampled on a few times. unfolding the unsealed flap, she pulled out the paper inside and made a motion with it. “this,” she exclaimed with a clever smile, “was my—what did you call it—something therapy.” 102 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG “narrative therapy, yes.” i was pleasantly surprised and equally intrigued. “But how did that,” pointing at the slim, creased, uplifted letter, “help you?” We talked for some time, with me doing the lion’s share of the listening. as a young teenager, she developed many problems associated with the trauma of her father’s abandonment, and eventually the situation grew so bad, her mother forced her to see a therapist. on day one, after the therapist heard this young teenager speak of her anger and frustration at her father, of her anger and apathy towards her mother, of her troubling social endeavors and bouts of depression, the therapist made a recommendation. she asked the teenager to write her father a letter. she did so that very night. the letter was filled with vehemence and venom, pouring her heart into the piece of paper and expressing all the things she feared to express to anyone. she brought the letter into the next appointment and read it out loud to the therapist. the therapist then asked her to hold on to the letter, and to keep it with her at all times. When she went out, the letter was in her pocket. When she slept at night, the letter was by her bedside. she carried this letter with her always, pulling it out to re-read it, scratching out lines, writing in the margins, changing words for greater clarity and emphasis. she rewrote the letter many times, going back to the first draft and re-storying her pain and frustration, her feelings of loneliness and abandonment, and the hundreds of other thoughts, questions, and fears that this piece of paper invoked. as she read and wrote, she began to gain sympathy for her father, and after a few years of cycling through her changing emotional and psychological states, she developed compassion and forgiveness for her father. her depression disappeared, her social skills improved, and she grew up to become a strong woman devoted to her mom and younger sister. it was all right there in her crinkled, aged, uplifted letter. the piece of paper might not mean anything to anyone who would find it on the sidewalk, but to her, it was an externalization of years of internalized emotions and thoughts. to her, it was a possession, an ownership, of her past. the act and craft of writing, as simple as it sounds, has the potential to change a person, and narrative therapy, when combined with other therapeutic strategies, can help many, many other people recover from their experiences and go on to lead positive, productive, and fulfilling lives. Digging deep into one’s psychological scars is by far not a simple task, but the healing power of writing provides potent soil in which true healing can grow. healing PoWer of a letter_TUYTSCHAEVERS 103 3.7 m i C orazón Denise VanBriggle i’m in love with you. there, i said it. it really wasn’t as difficult as i imagined. from the moment we met, you just wouldn’t let me get close enough to give you the love i know you desire deep, deep down. You haven’t been ready for me. You, like so many others i’ve known, suffered from a ton of neglect, abuse, and loss from the time you were an infant. the simple truth is you did not receive the love and care every beating heart deserves, but then again you did some God-awful things, too. Do you remember? What about all those drugs you ingested trying to forget about your painful past? and the booze, what about that? sure, alcohol numbed you for a while, but when you sobered up, there you were. and what about all of those fatty foods you consumed? Yeah, they provided temporary comfort, but after the huge meal was gone, you still felt empty inside. and how about all of those years filled with meaningless one-nighters? of course the sex satisfied you for a hot minute, but you were left wanting in the morning. and the cigarettes? You chain-smoked through your day so you wouldn’t dwell on failed relationships and the could have beens and should have beens of your life. i see you are trying to cut back on the smokes now, which makes me happy. i say fake it ‘til you make it, and i promise to stand by your side as you continue the fight. if i have one regret, though, it is that i’ve waited this long to tell you how much i love you, because i’m pretty sure your life would have been better if i had been in it from the start. i adore everything about you. You are a work of art to be treasured for the rest of your days. i have been waiting for this day from the moment you took your first breath, and i promise to cherish you until death parts us. You are finally ready for me now. Don’t look back, you aren’t going that way, mi corazón, you are coming with me. un amor, Buena salud 104 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG 3.8 grayloCk Joseph Bruchac More than two centuries gone old Graylock, the one the french called tete la Blanche walked off into Kitsiak Wadzoak the Big Mountains to never be seen again. he had been the one whose very presence had kept the tide of white settlers from the north. all he had to do our stories say was to sound the war cry, our wild rebel yell, at night near their camps. When the light of dawn came again they were gone. after his passing out of their histories save for his name loaned to a mountain my own ancestors did much the same. it seemed that we also disappeared. graylock_BRUCHAC 105 We just melted away like the winter ice, gone like the shoveler caribou, the long-tail mountain lion, the strange moose and the scouting wolf. Yet, as the trees grow back to clothe once clearcut slopes, as the tracks of our animal sisters and brothers, return to this soil, slow but sure as the steps of an old hunter moving through the forest, we, too, return to land we never left. though their flood filled our valleys, those waters never reached our high places and we did not drown. so, as we stand up, lifting our arms again like the ash trees from which the one who made himself from speech first shaped our people, we remember the meaning of his indian name, Wawanolet— the one whose trail they cannot follow. 106 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG 3.9 TUTUWas Joseph Bruchac i know the names on this land have been changed, printed on maps made by those who claim their ownership. some say nothing survives. But the wind still sings the same song of our breath. the hilltop trees still bend like dancers in ceremonies that never ended. and the little pines, tutuwas, tutuwas, lift up, protected from the weight of snow by the held-out arms of their elders. tUtUWaS_BRUCHAC 107 3.10 give T hanks Jeana Strong She who knows the path is she who travels it. – Zulu Proverb Because yesterday a tornado ripped through Western Mass and “there aren’t supposed to be tornadoes in new england” Because tonight a naked five-year-old choreographed a dance and taught it to me so patiently Because my middle sister huddled in a basement with her staff then drove her car filled with shattered glass home to her family Because after the storm my other sister gave me peonies from her garden that now sit in a drinking glass on the sill Because my beautiful daughter cried herself to sleep missing the camaraderie of the cast of her recent play and because nothing i said could touch her aching i could only lie next to her, still and breathing Because at this time of night one year ago today i quietly slipped into bed knowing everything had changed Because after i hit my head on the corner of the laundry chute she wandered down to the basement and asked if i was ok Because we played chutes and Ladders in bed huddled together, elmo, Big Bird and cookie Monster 108 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG Because they fell asleep listening to me whispering so lucky to be your mama Because the trees were ripped from their roots and the sky grew black and the clouds heaved and the winds howled and these storms come with little warning Because the voice on the radio said take cover now seek shelter, stay Low Because love demands continuous expression demands that we wake up before the storms become so severe that our lives become uninhabitable Because metaphors won’t shield us from the flood the fire, the melt, the unhinging planet a patient who can’t be stabilized by belated procedures a hospital, a hailstorm, a baby is born a frail man with a walker greets everyone hello Because every hello, every hug, bears witness to the skin we share, the hearts we have in common Because you too would lay yourself down to save a child’s life as the earth rages at our blind eyes and deaf ears drumming rain on the roofs we mistake as solid Because i woke in a woman’s arms having surrendered ego and any illusion of control Because i paced like a caged animal give thankS_STRONG 109 then ran free into the most wide-open spaces i could find and they were all inside, all inside Because i opened my eyes Because i stood beneath a waterfall and tried to drink buried my face in the leaves, carried my babies on my back and stopped to lie down in the summer soft grass Because we all want safety, comfort, and protection and yet these moments touch down, tornadoes take down everything we built in minutes and we are left standing in the rubble the broken glass, shards and fragments of our former havens Because what we know then is love it always comes to this We call the ones we love, cry when we hear their voices and realize how scared we were, how small only then do we wake up and remember that we have everything in each other’s naked dancing bodies, soothing voices touching hands everything in each other’s soothing voices and touching hands and so we Give thanks Give thanks Give thanks 110 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG 3.11 The ekg Wendy Brown-Báez Your heart beats are irregular, they tell you. You think the pang is where the fault line broke open. You think it is not urgent but could become so: a good friend only a few years older has a pacemaker. this surprises you despite the joints made of titanium and the ache in your back. aren’t we still young, what ever happened? Why is your heart worn and wrinkled, polished to a soft glow, no longer an ascending flare in the night? that heart on your sleeve rubbed soft by your grandson belongs to your stories, to the earth, and to you. now it dances, stumbles and catches itself on corners, dancing away to a tune of its own. the ekg_BROWN-BÁEZ 111 3.12 When i l aUgh h ard i f eel l ike i W ill l ive f orever John Jodzio i am 82 years old and my doctor recently told me i’d live longer if i laughed more often. instead of watching sitcoms, i decided to start to fake my own death a couple of times a day. as you can probably imagine it’s really pretty easy to fake your death when you are my age. usually i’ll just sit somewhere and close my eyes and hold my breath. i mostly do this at restaurants after i’ve finished eating. sooner or later a waitress will put her face right up to my mouth to see if i am still breathing. When the waitress does this, i usually stick my tongue into their ear. then i laugh really loud. it makes me feel great. i mean, honestly, for a few seconds, i feel like i’m 20 again. i’d grown tired of pretend dying in restaurants last week, so i decided to take things up a notch. i have a friend at the local funeral home, tommy randall, and he has a sense of humor just like mine. i had him set up a fake funeral for me—the casket, the flowers, the hearse, the music. on tuesday, i pretended to die in my bed. My daughter Melissa found me and called our family doctor, Dr. hanson, who was in on the joke. Dr. hanson came over and pronounced me dead. he called my friend at the coroner’s office, Mitch ohnsted, who came over and slid me onto a gurney. i hung out in Mitch’s basement for a couple of days eating pizza and watching college football and “the Wire” while all my relatives flew into town. on the day of the funeral, i put on a blue suit and climbed right into the casket. as you can imagine, my funeral was very moving, but also quite hilarious. a number of good friends said very nice things about me and my three ex-wives didn’t ruin anything with their pettiness. My grandson toby tucked a joint into the pocket of my suitcoat and told me that it would “totally help get me to the other side.” obviously, my favorite part was when i rose up out of the coffin and walked 112 3_a heart’s reason for BeatinG over to father reinhart and tapped him on the shoulder and he fainted. it worked just like we’d planned, but unfortunately, none of my family thought it was all that funny, except for toby, who couldn’t stop laughing. i’ve always liked toby and so when i got home that night, i called up my lawyer and switched around my will because i want someone like me, someone with a good sense of humor, to get all my money when i really do kick the bucket. When i laUgh hard i feel like i Will live forever_JODZIO 113 114 4 Do it. Do it. Do it. : teaChi n G t he art a nD sCie n C e of su rvive a nD thrive · 1. a Poem for Brandon REX VEEDER 8. SharkSkin JoUrnal LIANA LIVINGSTONE 2. Teaching by Moving the river home JIMMY BACA 9. neW fire MARY WILLETTE HUGHES 3. my Bandaged Place DENISE VANBRIGGLE 4. telling StorieS, Writing PoemS FRANCIS E. KAZEMEK & JERRY J. WELLIK 10. The DocTor vs. The Pre-MeD sTuDenT JIM REESE 11. Write Brain AUDRY SHAFER 5. the mUSeUm heart ALBERTO RIOS 12. leSSon PlanS and PromPtS MOLLY STARKWEATHER & MICHAEL MACBRIDE 6. Sonia Sanchez and PaUlo freire have coffee JEFF CARMACK 13. reflectionS on teaching MOLLY STARKWEATHER & MICHAEL MACBRIDE 7. JoUrnaling iS my medicine (and it can Be yoUrS) BARBARA STAHURA 115 116 4.1 a Poem for b randon While yoU ’ re WaiTing Rex Veeder seriously, it stinks this whole heart spastic thing. i know the place you are in— the bed, the colors, the smells, the waiting. the prayers i hear are for physician skills and the thrill of a spark driving the heart to keep up with your will. this is a prayer as well: You are wrapped in an ocean of sun and ambling down a road to someplace only you know is unsurpassed, somewhere not too distant But blessed in your mind With loving-kindness and surprise, Great billowing winds of excitement, Where your friends picnic and family and whatever else offers you the smell of music in your life the strong beating of a coordinated heart and the promise of grandchildren to run beside you to the park. the poem is written for Brandon. on the other hand, i am aware that in writing the poem i ease my own discomfort, my own memories that are deep in the a Poem for Brandon While yoU’re Waiting_VEEDER 117 cells. Writing something is for the reader and for the writer. it’s a form of communication with others and ourselves at the same time. Write a poem? Give it a try. a poem is thinking in lines and loving words. if you want to work with rhyme, go ahead. You can even count syllables if you like, but first find a picture or object to be your center piece—your bridge into the poem you will write. once you have it (in the case of the poem above it was the image of a sundrenched park with large trees and shade) you will discover the image and language beginning to come together for you—if you are willing to give it a try. for this essay in poems, consider it as an open letter to someone who you know and is suffering from a trauma or illness. find a way to bring together the centerpiece object and what you want to say to that person and write in lines for 15 minutes. then go back and read what you have out loud to yourself. You will not be able to resist moving a line here or there or changing a word or taking words out. You will find the poem in your draft as sure as there are sunny parks with trees. 4.2 TeaChing by m oving The r iver h ome Jimmy Baca t eaching is healing by being in the world. that means that there is a cultural healing—that when people get to know their place in harmony with their heart they are healthier. it’s also possible that denying people’s place in the world can make them sick. Many professors in the creative writing department are trained in conventional poetics—that is, they use eurocentric traditions to teach. the romantic poets instance, and while there is nothing wrong with this, (the first book of poetry i ever read was a freshman edition of the romantic poets), if the professor knows nothing about chicano poetry what good does it do the chicano poet? or all students for that matter, it seems a lopsided education. 118 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe and a lot of chicano poetry has to do with healing narratives, considering on the one hand we are colonized peoples, and on the other native americans know little about our history and treat us as if we are not indigenous. here’s an example of a professor not having been trained in the full spectrum and range of american poetry. Let’s say his name is ralph and ralph is the head professor at unM in the english department. (this was years before the interim President of unM was busted for running the largest academic prostitution ring in america and before a professor in the english department was busted for having her personal dominatrix website with her nude students in doggy style positions while she stood over them with a whip and black boots. You gotta love ’em. . . .). anyway, i was married and had one child and i signed up at the university. at the time i was working two jobs plus raising my child, and the head of the english department allowed me to work at home on the condition i turn in a full manuscript for a grade at the end of the semester, which i did. But he failed me. i thought it was good. he read the manuscript and told me he wasn’t interested in narrative poetry. i took the copy of my poetry manuscript and threw it in the dumpster at the post office and went home. i was pretty depressed. My wife came home and was aghast and dashed out and drove to the post office and climbed into the dumpster and rummaged through the trash until she found my manuscript. Good thing she did because a few weeks later new Directions in nY accepted it for publication. But that made the situation worse. When i went back and informed my professor about it, he said i was lying. the news that new Directions was publishing me angered him, and with contempt he told me that new Directions would never publish someone like me—ex-convict, more or less illiterate and uneducated. so here you have it: in the box thinking. What i’m saying here is that it’s this type of in the box thinking that is throttling students. there is little consciousness and dump-trunks of fear. When it comes to the disparity between what a professor should know about cultures and peoples and actually knows keeps growing wider. in the scenario given above the professor’s intuitive knowledge is shut-down and reveals more than any other aspect his fear and bias. Why can’t someone outside of academia write poetry? More to the point, why can’t an ex-convict be not only a good poet but get published? You get the idea, this closed-brain thinking pretty much prevails the shark-infested academic waters, which really should be the burn-pit for what doesn’t work. We have got to move the river back home. and i’ll explain what i mean. Brian Miller, the man in charge of Wind river ranch, invited me to do something teaching By moving the river home_BACA 119 at the ranch. he is an enlightened man and has the wonderful credit of having saved two animals from extinction. i said i’d like to make the ranch a place where poets and writers could come and finished their work. then i extended that and suggested we bring young adults who are on their way to prison and process them through this ranch—that is, have them experience themselves through the eyes and heart of the landscape. he loved the ideas—untried, risky, new ideas. so we bussed in kids (16 to 21 years old) from various pueblos and town in northern new Mexico and i told them: rich texans moved this part of the Pecos river to accommodate their leisure. the part of the river they moved is dead. We need to move the river back home. and likewise, i told the students, the reason you’re having problems in your life is because when you were very little someone moved your soul from its original channel and traumatized you—we need to move your soul back to its original source. and so we started, in the mornings the kids got on the dozers, some grabbed shovels, others planted native trees and such, healing and convalescing the river, bringing it back to itself, to the way the creator intended it and the way the river shaped itself with the help of winds and rains and sunlight and seasons over the ages. after the physical labor, we crossed boundaries and journaled our feelings. after an afternoon of creative writing, we napped, then gathered for dinner and after dinner we read our poetry and prose about what we were feeling, thinking and envisioning about the work we were doing and how it affected our hearts. slowly, the kids were moving their souls back to the original channel and recreating their own creation-myth. they returned to their villages and towns freed from the impediments that hindered their self-expression, that is, they learned to use words and language in general again, to express their anger and joy, to create a future with their own stories, made of pictures and images hanging in the air, in their own unique arrangement of words—the healing medicine that is the power of stories. 120 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.3 m y b andaged P laCe Denise VanBriggle Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you. ~ Rumi L ook, i’m going to make this simple. i’ve got so many bandaged places that i’ll just cut to chase and give them to you in an economy of words. this noninclusive clinical list seems fitting here. • • • • • • • • Kidney removed when i was 11 Mentally ill father died of a massive heart attack when he was 48 Drug and alcohol cross-addicted, suicidal mother died when she was 64 Diagnosed with hashimoto’s thyroiditis Diagnosed with deep sinus infection dangerously close to my brain Diagnosed with fibromyalgia Daughter suffered two lung collapses and surgeries when she was 29 and 32 Daughter had retained placenta following two deliveries, hemorrhaged severely and had life-threatening complications after her last child on my birthday in 2008, two years after my daughter’s first lung collapse and her first lung surgery, i started to feel semi-normal again. My freshest wounds were beginning to scab over. My husband and i decided to take a day trip to new hope, Pennsylvania, an artsy town tucked alongside the Delaware river. for the first time in a long while, i felt free, almost as if i just walked out of a thick fog and began to see my world clearly enough to navigate without fear of bumping into (or stepping into) something awful every step i took. the unseasonably mild day was my first gift . . . 70 degrees with a crisp breeze. it is no secret how much i adore fall, and the universe conspired to conjure up a perfect autumn day in January. another love of mine is the scent of a fire burning, and the smell of a fresh cedar hung in the air as we explored the lazy little my Bandaged Place_VANBRIGGLE 121 town. the weather was so mild we had lunch outdoors on the patio of one of the charming old hotels nestled along the main street. from there, we investigated all of the funky shops that lined the street. in one, i discovered a piece that has come to hold far more meaning for me than i could have imagined back in 2008. it is a repurposed necklace made from drawing together bits and pieces of antique silver jewelry. the focal point, though, is a long thin piece of polished coral with the inscription Dance with an open heart. at the time i did not know how much i needed these words. Looking back upon them now, i realize my heart had closed because i did not explore my own bandaged places for many years. i pretended they were not there, but they just festered until i learned how to move through the pain, to heal from the inside out. for me, the tool i used was writing; others may find different means to the same end. i wrote a raw creative non-fiction piece The Dream I’m Chasing (www. which turned out to be the pivotal point in my own healing process. it has been five years since my trip to new hope and i am happy to report i continue to dance through my days with an open heart. Will this new-found joy prevent me from experiencing future dark days? of course not. But now i have the secret. i know how to let in the light . . . and so do you. 122 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.4 Telling s Tories, W riTing P oems Francis E. Kazemek & Jerry J. Wellik introDuction W hile writing poetry for several weeks with third grade students in a bilingual classroom in south tucson, one of the girls, fiorella, wrote a startling poem: Far away to my Dad Far away. Far away. Why did you go away, Daddy? Far away like a flying bird. Far away, a long way to go away from home. We learned from her teacher that fiorella’s father did not leave home; he had been found dead in the desert some weeks earlier, a victim of violence. in this poem and subsequent others, fiorella used poetry as a means of confronting her father’s death. the poetry did not make his death any easier to bear, but it gave her emotional space in which to grieve and to share her grief with others. in some respects her writing was a search for solace. the story of her father’s death that henceforth will be an integral part of fiorella’s life is, like all of our stories, one that she will share many times and in many ways in order to understand it and herself. But more, it is a story from which we as readers and listeners can grow in compassion and insight. as the doctor-poet William carlos Williams stressed to robert coles, then a medical student who was telling StorieS, Writing PoemS_KAZEMEK & WELLIK 123 following Williams around on house calls, “their story, yours, mine—it’s what we all carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them” (coles 1989, 30). Williams’s affirmation of the importance of each individual’s stories and the manner in which he captured those stories in his poetry, fiction, and prose nonfiction have been touchstones for us over the years in our own writing and in our work with writers of all ages, from eight to ninety-eight. in this essay we present some examples of poetry written by children, young adults, and elders with whom we have worked during the last thirty years, poetry that not only resonates with Williams’s assertion but also gives us insights and opportunities for reflecting on the role of poetry in our work as educators, therapists, caregivers, and other healers. stories anD us [T]he narrative mode leads to conclusions not about certainties in an aboriginal world, but about the varying perspectives that can be constructed to make experience comprehensible. (Bruner 1986, 37) narratives, our stories, not only make us who and what we are, but they also offer us opportunities to become more than what we presently are. that’s what fiorella was doing in the poems about her father’s death. it’s what we all do when we struggle to understand and come to terms with difficult times in our lives, when we engage in some form of a “life review.” it’s what Douglas, an eightyseven-year-old man in one of our elder writing groups, was doing while in his last months of life in a nursing home. Douglas had been a long-time alcoholic and admittedly “a hard man to live with” until he joined aa and became a “new man.” now near the end he was celebrating his days and reaching out to others in his poems. “the song in My heart” opens: The song in my heart seems to say, Look around and see the things That are there for you and me. Look around and see the beauty. Open your eyes and mind to know It’s all there for you to enjoy. Douglas enjoyed it until the very end, writing with a joyous laughter in the face of death: At 3 a.m. all I was thinking About was cremation. 124 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe Later my wife told me I had to get a haircut. Why get a haircut? The undertaker won’t bother. I’m going to be cremated Anyhow! and it’s what cindy, a seventeen-year-old mom in an alternative high school setting, was wrestling with when she wrote of her love for her child and her longing to be a carefree teenager once again: I wish I could leave my son. My friends and family want me to. I dream my son could be great. He could be caring to women and men. I used to go out and have fun, But now I stay home and have even more. People see me as intimidating— I’m really just a pushover. fiorella’s, Douglas’s, and cindy’s poems reflect complex stories of their lives. as Wendell Berry, the poet-farmer from Kentucky, contends: “Most poems, whether or not they tell or contain stories, come out of stories, and often they bear witness to the stories they come out of” (Berry 2010, 87). We believe that’s what makes the writing of poetry so vital to the exploration of our lives and the sometimes healing of our emotional and spiritual wounds. PoetrY eVerYWhere Why do we stress the importance of poetry in our efforts as educators and writers? We believe that poetry helps us understand our world and ourselves; often it helps us understand our world and ourselves in new ways. at the same time, poetry lifts our language. We find ourselves using language in new ways, in ways that are more vivid, more powerful, and more fun. as William carlos Williams stated again and again in a mantra-like manner: “no ideas but in things” (Williams, 1958, p. iii). the poem, he contended, should be made “of this, make it of this, this/this, this, this, this” (1958, 141). We believe Williams’s this, this, this, this is most important today in our media-saturated society, one in which people walk through the world with their heads down into the screens of cell phones, iPads, and other such devices. a society in which virtual reality replaces the beauty that Douglas exhorted us to telling StorieS, Writing PoemS_KAZEMEK & WELLIK 125 see, to open our eyes and minds to know. understanding and healing come from encounters with the human and natural worlds and from the stories we share with others about those worlds and our place in them. Poetry helps us do that. Lastly, we can hear readers of this essay complain, “But i’m not a poet; i can’t write a poem.” and we respond that as language users we’re all poets of sorts. We often unawares shape words into beautiful things. as Williams confided to robert coles, “every day i hear those poor souls i visit talk poems to me. sometimes i run to my car and write a few of their words down. not every day, but on a lucky day, two or three times. Don’t tell your harvard professor what i said” (coles 1978, xiv). But we’re telling you that; it’s a prescription of sorts from old Doc Williams. shaping stories into poems is one way of being more fully alive, more understanding, as one of our friends and colleagues, a retired nun, discovered. she volunteered to work with us and a group of teens in an alternative setting. on the first occasion she failed to connect with any of the young people and felt alienated. however, she returned and was soon writing with and leading the students in small groups. she wrote them (and herself) an “apology Poem,” and we’ll conclude with it: I let you down white-haired, too straight nun. I let you down too wild, wooly youth. I am sorry, I need another chance. I’ll look for you. Will you be waiting? References Berry, Wendell. Imagination in Place. Berkley, ca: counterpoint, 2010. Bruner, Jerome. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. cambridge, Ma: harvard university Press, 1986. coles, robert. A Festering Sweetness: Poems of American People. Pittsburgh: university of Pittsburgh Press, 1978. ______. The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination. Boston: houghton Mifflin co., 1989. Williams, William carlos. Paterson. new York: new Directions Pub. corp.,1958. 126 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.5 The m UseUm h earT Alberto Rios We, each of us, keep what we remember in our hearts. We, all of us, keep what we remember in museums. In this way, museums beat inside us. What we have seen and been fed, What we have smelled and then wanted, What hair we have touched and what hands have touched our own; What fires have burned red, What rifles-fire echoes still, What blue mountains rise on the horizon’s orange and gray spine; What day-moon mornings, what June-beetled evenings, simple heat moving, finally, into simple coolness, a single long drink of good water, My mother’s yes, your father’s chin. What we remember, What we have remembered to keep, Where we put what we keep: sometimes in buildings we find Pieces of the heart. sometimes in a heart we find the shelter of a building. the mUSeUm heart_RIOS 127 4.6 s onia s anChez and P aUlo f reire h ave C offee Jeff Carmack Peace is lucidity above reason. Love is slower, but more permanent. Peace is the most valuable gift we can give our children and grandchildren. When ignorance is celebrated and incompetence rewarded, our country ceases to work properly. to reclaim our world from the Masters of War, that is the reason for any season. But how do we do it? Where do we start? We start with ourselves and with love. as Paulo freire says, “Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others. no matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause—the cause of liberation. and this commitment, because it is loving, is dialogical. as an act of bravery, love cannot be sentimental; as an act of freedom, it must not serve as a pretext for manipulation. it must generate other acts of freedom; otherwise, it is not love. only by abolishing the situation of oppression is it possible to restore the love which that situation made impossible.” to be peaceful is to be courageous, to stand up and face the reality of oppression even when that reality is found in a place where it hurts the most to admit it. Without this courage, there will never be peace on a mass scale and their war will last forever . . . or at least until we’re all extinct. it takes true bravery to stand up with love and there is love in the air, so let’s all take a deep breath! 128 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.7 J oUrnaling i s m y m ediCine (and i T C an b e y oUrs) Barbara Stahura “‘What is your medicine?’ I was asked. “‘Story. Story is my medicine,’ I answered.” Deena Metzger, Entering the Ghost River W hen desperation drove me to flee a soul-killing corporate job twenty years ago, journaling helped me leap into a successful freelance writing career. When a hit-and-run driver left my husband of nine months with a traumatic brain injury, turning me into a traumatized, terrified caregiver, my journal became a sanctuary where i could mourn, rage, find respite, and finally celebrate. When my mother suffered a terrible stroke (and we had to sell our family home of 60 years, the heart center of my wide-ranging life), my grief, confusion, and hope flowed onto page after page. and when, last year, i was diagnosed with breast cancer, turning to my journal was as natural as seeking a cool drink of water on a hot day. Journaling is my medicine, to paraphrase Deena Metzger. it is the way i tell the stories—momentous and trivial, joyous and painful—that create me. after all, “(e)verything is story,” says narrative psychiatrist Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, “including our identities, our selves, our meanings and purposes, our theories about the world.” Pouring my stories into the welcoming container of the page allows me to record all those things, as well as my thoughts and feelings about them. By allowing me to be my own compassionate listener, journaling lets me make sense of things, lay a path out of the pit, dance my happy dance, wonder, vent, create, wail, dream. By writing, i can reframe stories of the broken pieces of my past and so heal my future; self-exploration becomes self-empowerment. if you journal, you can do the same. intentionaL JournaLinG is theraPeutic When done with attention to content and the intention to change, journaling becomes a therapeutic tool for self-directed transformation, personal growth, JoUrnaling iS my medicine_STAHURA 129 and many other benefits. More than 200 studies have demonstrated that writing down feelings and observations about either traumatic or positive events can offer benefits to many, from college students to the unemployed, and from people with cancer to family caregivers. Brief, limited periods of this “expressive writing” strengthened immune function, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, reduced asthma and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and lessened sleep disturbances in people with cancer. other benefits included less anxiety and rumination, fewer symptoms of depression, better work efficiency, deeper connections with others, and even higher employment rates. for beneficial change to happen, though, it’s important to explore not only darker aspects of our lives, but also sunnier things as well. repeatedly chewing on the same painful topic without resolution or change of attitude is more harmful than helpful. even a few positive words in an entry about painful circumstances can do the trick. in addition, using some structured techniques can be healthier than open-ended freewriting and keep us from writing our way over the cliff with no way back. no ruLes for KeePinG a JournaL the most important element of journal-keeping is giving yourself permission to write, and as honestly as possible. ensuring the privacy of your journal allows more freedom of expression. next, know that journaling has no rules (except perhaps to date your entries). Write about and include whatever you choose, such as sketches, collages, poems, memorable quotes, pasted-in cards or letters. Dump concerns about grammar and spelling, as well as that dispiriting voice hissing, “Me? i can’t write.” Whatever you write is perfect. and though written, it’s not carved in stone: it’s only a reflection of you at that moment. You can keep a paper journal or an electronic one (if the latter, keep it private with a password). if illness or injury prevents you from using a pen or a keyboard, you can journal with voice-activated software, a recording device, or a trusted person who scribes your words without change or judgment. Benefits come with writing for as little as five minutes several times a week (and please experiment with more). You can journal alone or in a facilitated group. When ready, you can simply begin to write. or you can use a phrase to get you started, called a prompt. here are a few basic prompts: today i feel . . . i couldn’t possibly… When i was (some younger age) . . . When i am (some older age) . . . i believe . . . 130 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe My heart says . . . if i could tell the story of (x), i would say . . . i remember what it was like to . . . i find meaning in . . . Dear . . . Many excellent journaling books and online resources are available, juicy with creative, helpful techniques. You will surely find some that work for you. search online for “journaling” or “journaling books” to find them. My life has been strengthened and transformed, often in ways i never could have predicted, by the simple act of putting pen to paper with some regularity. so can yours. 4.8 s harkskin J oUrnal Liana Livingstone on the hard days, i pretend i had a choice. You or your daughter? they asked. Give it to me, i answered. on the hardest days, i imagine i begged for it. Your daughter . . . she’ll struggle, they said. then give it to me first, i asked. and i’ll show her that everything important is also indestructible. * JoUrnal entry_LIVINGSTONE 131 i miss things. i calculate the costs for 67 more years: 9.5 years (83,220 hours) lost in sleep 2,600 gallons of gas 46 pounds of caplets and capsules 249,402,374 miles on the road to specialists i remember that solution and answer are not synonymous. My scientist is left to wander in the jungle. or, my scientist is left out in the ocean without a boat. came up from the deep expecting a ride home to find empty and endless sea. 132 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe i could complain if i looked ill With a mood ring honest face spelling out the simple code of my sickness. i could complain if i were in a wheel chair With my losses clearly shown in a mystery abbreviation of flesh without bone. i could complain if i had the monstrous accessories With the weight of titanium and tanks to prove my disease means business. i could complain if i were terminal With measured breath like a metronome before the song begins. the monster in this mind is my brain. What i hide is a clever jungle mind Where the rivers run murky with time in which guerrillas slay the old dreams stuff their pockets with my memories Leaving me hollowed out for a new normal Which is often less but never more. next time you ask how i am, i’ll just say “can’t complain.” * i know it could be worse. My disease is gentle on the outside. i have to forgive it for that, too. * if a million neurons die and no one sees it, is the mind still sound? if so what is the sound? * help from others: We have different dreams now. – Em Our sense of time has to change. – Rex A person’s reaction is about their fear of illness, not their love for you. – Mom Patient determination and willpower are your strongest allies. – Dad You and our daughter are what I want. This doesn’t change anything. – Grant * “i feel secure in diagnosing narcolepsy,” says my neurologist and isn’t it nice he called himself. i’m in a back alley, standing under a faded antiques sign for a store that’s gone. “so i’m part shark?” i ask, and the doctor laughs. i’m not convinced he gets it. * JoUrnal entry_LIVINGSTONE 133 a shark is never completely awake or asleep. its brain sleeps in parts, so it can keep moving. travelling pushes breathable water into the gills. it’s not a myth that if a shark stops swimming, it dies. What is like a shark? not people, for sure, but i am. a narcoleptic’s brain does the same thing. i didn’t evolve for it, so i know how much i miss. if i were a shark, i’d know half of me is getting the job done. “is there anything i can do?” My eyes are slitted with the truth, “Why don’t you tell me?” You still see right square teeth. i’m sniffing for blood in the water. * flipped my Zs into ss . . . strong sleek silver slippery sharp slitted shark. * there are also days when i’m ready to tackle this thing, when the fight is more purposeful than thrashing in the water. i come away from these feeding frenzies ready to move without stopping. i might know where i’m going. When i let the anger, pain, confusion and weakness out onto the paper where i can’t hide from it, i can also see the strength and peace i thought were damaged or buried. it will all be okay in the end. if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. 134 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.9 neW f ire Mary Willette Hughes t he crisis came in the middle of the night. fierce emotions flared, leaving ashes drifting through the air, seeping into every room of our home, into ourselves. hope had opened the front door of our home and left for the world beyond. sorrow, anger and despair entered, to live with us. i did not cause the crisis facing our son, i could not control it, i could not cure it . . . but i could write about it. the fallout from that night became my first serious poem, titled ‘that night.” i felt a desperate need to corral the chaos swirling my mind and soul. i hoped that writing might bring some kind of order to rampant feelings and thoughts. i discovered that allowing those feelings to flow from my heart and mind, and through my pen to form words on the blank paper brought a small sense of relief. choosing the metaphors and precise language to describe his painful event gave it a shape and form on the page that helped me to feel i was doing something positive. Writing helped me accept the reality of what had happened to him and to describe my own emotional storm. that first poem, written 23 years ago, opened the door to other poems of memory that came, one by one. Difficult experiences involving our son that had been buried within me, surfaced . . . experiences i had never faced and had never resolved. each new poem, recalling a specific event and my feelings at that time, gave me permission to neW fire_HUGHES 135 confront the experience, to sometimes weep over it and to write about it. Writing poems became therapeutic for me. i learned that sub-merged pain can be dealt with in this intimate and safe process. it was a first step that helped me evolve into a more compassionate and integrated person. it helped me realize the therapeutic power of writing poetry. after a few years, fifty poems about sexual abuse, addiction, treatment and recovery were gathered and published in the book titled, Flight On New Wings. for over twelve years the poems from this book have been the basis of ongoing therapeutic work at the st. cloud hospital’s recovery Plus program for addiction. they are used for group sessions, where those who suffer from the disease of addiction share the “ashes” of their personal stories through the objective lens of the poems. the poems generate discussions and written responses relevant to each client, in light of the poem’s subject matter. Poetry as therapy is now included as a vital, viable, and valuable mode of treatment in the st. cloud hospital’s recovery Plus program. the world of recovery is one that i feel honored to be a part of . . . one in which our family’s experience can be of help to others who have known similar trauma in their lives. clients at recovery Plus soon realize they are not alone in their disease of addiction, nor in the resultant aftermath it has caused in their lives and their family’s lives. they become educated about addiction, the 12-step program, and come to recognize a higher power in their lives. they learn to have hope for their future. all clients who attend the poetry therapy sessions may take a copy of my book, titled Flight On New Wings, without personal cost to them. the poems have become a meaningful aid in the recovering person’s journey to a life of sobriety. Because our son is in his 32nd year of recovery, our story, told through poetry, offers hope. from the most difficult experiences of one’s life, new healing, insight and personal growth can occur through writing their own poems and reading poetry about others whose journeys have been somewhat similar to theirs. Writing poetry and working with poetry as therapy at recovery Plus is a continuing privilege that has deeply impacted and changed me. it has enriched and healed my life through therapeutic writings about specific events. and it has given fresh hope to those in need. hope has the power to open closed doors to a new personal vision that one’s life can be lived differently. ashes can be swept away and the new fire of sobriety can be faithfully tended, day by day. 136 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.10 The d oCTor vs . The P re-med s TUdenT Jim Reese finals week and in the university bathroom i find a note that reads: Perform frequent neurological checks on the client. i think of the student whose nervous system is already shot— who is hiding answers to questions in toilet paper dispensers. i think of this clever student as almost getting accepted to med school. i think of this pre-med student as a neurologist, which scares me. Postgraduate and clinical training— the 10–12 years of tests. Your own therapeutic spinal tap to relieve the increased pressure. i think of this neurologist watching the boxed set DVDs of Grey’s anatomy one too many times. Don’t you remember George? You ask your medical colleagues. How he struggled so? i think of your eye-crossing vision—you balancing on one leg. Who on earth let you pass the sobriety check that mattered? how often you recite the alphabet backwards in public and make the others at the bar buy you a drink when they try and fail. Did you know, in Germany, a compulsory year of psychiatry must be done to complete a residency of neurology? the doctor vS. the Pre-med StUdent_REESE 137 i didn’t. i get my neurological facts on Wikipedia. But please, and i’m not a doctor; well, actually i am, but not the kind that can feel you. Please, start referring to your clients as patients, start seeing them as human beings. 4.11 WriTe b rain Audrey Shafer Write Brain Left Brain, or hoW i LearneD to stoP WorrYinG anD LoVe WritinG a ccording to studies of the lateralization of brain function, including a paper cunningly subtitled “a metaanalytic tale of two hemispheres” (hull & Vaid, 2007), the view that the left brain handles language, analysis, and the to-do list of daily life while the right brain serves as a font of creativity and imaginative fancy fails to convey the complex interplay between structures throughout the brain that are engaged when we talk, write, or even think about language. the act of writing, hence, becomes not only a tool for engaging both the analytic and the creative processes required for complex activity, such as the practice of medicine*, but also a metaphor for the unification of the at times clichéd dualism invoked to explicate medicine (such as the art of medicine, the science of medicine). furthermore, writing is both an act of reflection on what one has already experienced as well as an act of exploration: a leap into uncharted, unknown, and sometimes scary territory. When you sit down to write, you don’t fully know what will emerge on the paper or screen. the “free write” is a time to turn off 138 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe that carping nag of an internal editor who critiques your every word as too dull, too naughty, too nice, or just not right—even before the word is allowed onto the page (Greenberg, 1990). and yet writing cannot end with the free write. the careful, iterative process of editing, identifying the shine of gem-like phrases and girding those gems, is as important a part of the creative process as the initial spill of words. ah, you ask, could this backwards and forwards process, mingling of known and unknown, combination of imaginative leaps and attention to detail be related to medicine? of course. i daresay a number of occupations and pursuits encompass these traits as well (parenting, teaching, and research leap to mind). Basically, the skills you hone in the practice of writing translate, in some fashion, to other endeavors, including medicine, which demand high level function and coordination between multiple loci in the brain. But there’s more. Writing is usually considered a solitary act. You are, after all, communing with your own brain. Yet the power of exposure and the possibility for community building that the sharing or publishing of writing affords can be extraordinary (shapiro, Kasman, & shafer, 2006). sharing writing in a workshop, course, or other protected environment enables the acknowledgement of vulnerability, fallibility, ambiguity, and other emotionally charged but frequently neglected components of being human in a domain (such as medicine) that expects perfection. a writing group, in contrast to a morbidity and mortality conference for instance, almost inevitably fosters feelings of reciprocity and witnessing, which in turn create a precious kind of intimacy. such experiences of truly being known and knowing others tend to be rare in a medical community, which so frequently is bound by hierarchy, restricted self-presentation, and other divisions. for these and other reasons, writing has been advocated for medical students and trainees (e.g., during anatomy, clerkships, residency) and practitioners of all types and experiences (reisman, hansen, & rastegar, 2006). Workshops may be associated with a medical institution or conference or independently advertised yet geared for those in medicine. Publishing or public readings are also forms of sharing and, therefore, exposure. Web publishing formats, such as blogs, provide even more methods to publicly express various aspects of the medical and illness experiences. Years ago, after a reading of my poem, “Monday Morning,” a work in which i mention my naked toddler son (shafer, 1992), i noted that he had grown to dislike the poem because of his lack of attire. “he shouldn’t be upset,” Kathryn Montgomery later advised me. “it’s you who are truly naked in the poem.” the therapeutic benefit of writing has been advocated and used for various populations, including prisoners, victims of domestic violence, the unemployed, and, of course, patients (see, for example, the work of James W. Pennebaker, PhD). in addition to the advantages of community and support noted previously, Write Brain_SHAFER 139 research suggests that the act of writing itself produces a range of healing outcomes even if no feedback about the writing is provided (smyth, stone, hurewitz, & Kaell, 1999). finally, i have a confession. the subtitle of this piece, “how i learned to stop worrying and love writing,” is an utter falsehood. having just seen the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly last night, i feel small saying this, but here it is: writing remains painful. Birthing is arduous. and sometimes i am easily distracted. My time Websurfing while i should have been writing this piece included visiting images of homer simpson’s x-ray of his mini brain, learning that the koala has peculiarly tiny cerebral hemispheres, and drooling over my sister’s summer rental property in nag’s head. Joshua spanogle, a physician and mystery thriller author, has said his apartment is never cleaner than when he is working on a writing project. Maybe someday i will stop worrying, but it hasn’t happened yet. i do, however, acknowledge the need, the joy, and even the love. i am fortunate to also feel the same about my practice: i worry about each case, and i also love what i do. the last thing you want is a complacent anesthesiologist. Writing, as well as the study of what writing and medicine mean, is a vital component of medical humanities. fledgling writers need nurturing; writing groups or courses require support. Medical schools and training programs can encourage the human side of medicine by fostering writing. so pull out a piece of paper and your favorite pen or open a new, blank document on your computer screen. i urge you: write. *the term medicine is used here to denote the practice of patient care, including doctoring, nursing, and therapy. Literature and Medicine References Greenberg, n. (1990). Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life. new York: Bantam. hull, r., & Vaid, J. (2007). Bilingual language lateralization: a meta-analytic tale of two hemispheres. Neuropsychologia, 45(9), 1987–2008. reisman, a. B., hansen, h., & rastegar, a. (2006). the craft of writing: a physicianwriter’s workshop for resident physicians. Journal of General internal Medicine, 21, 1109–1111. shafer, a. (1992). Monday morning. annals of internal Medicine, 117, 167. shapiro, J., Kasman, D., & shafer, a. (2006). Words and wards: a model of reflective writing and its uses in medical education. Journal of Medical humanities, 27(4), 231–244. smyth, J. M., stone, a. a., hurewitz, a., & Kaell, a. (1999). effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized trial. Journal of the american Medical association, 281, 1304–1309. Exchange • Spring 2008 140 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 141 4.12 lesson P lans and P romPTs Molly Starkweather and Michael MacBride emergency Medical services Prompts by course topic Composition: CPR Process Analysis G oals/outcomes of assignment: the student writers will learn about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (cPr), a vital skill for global citizens. they will replicate the process of cPr by composing a process analysis, a traditional essay form wherein a writer explains a process step by step. Process analysis is a genre that translates well to other disciplines, especially ones that involve technical writing, for instance the sciences and business. Process analysis also lends itself well to multimodal composition and new media, for instance podcasts and Youtube videos. What you’ll need: * a cPr instructor to visit the class and give a demonstration/take questions * a text on how to write a process analysis * access to equipment for multimodal composition (film cameras, internetequipped computers with digital video editing software, lab time for students, etc.) a model for teaching: 1. arrange for a cPr instructor to visit the class to give a demonstration of resuscitation and take questions. assign students to do some informal research on cPr and compose one or two questions they have about how to perform cPr. 2. During class time, arrange students into small groups; after the demonstration and discussion, have groups compose a “short list” (miniature process analysis) of how to resuscitate and give their own demonstrations for the class with the goal of “selling” their short list to the cPr instructor. (You could even have fun 142 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe by making the presentations a kind of informal competition with a prize for the best short process.) 3. after students have read and digested the text on how to write a process analysis, discuss how to expand that short list into a more comprehensive process analysis. Gauge among the students whether they would work best on expanding their short lists in groups, individually, using just text, or going multimodal by having a blog entry, Prezi, Jing video, or Youtube video. after setting up the parameters with input from the student writers, assign lab time/draft checkpoints/peer review as necessary. in addition to any formal composition sent directly to the instructor, have a follow up discussion with abbreviated presentations from students showing how they framed their process analyses of cPr. Biology, Anatomy, and Physiology: Diagrams as Heart Art Goals/outcomes: student scientists will render a diagram of the human heart as it would appear during sudden cardiac arrest (sca). Drawing diagrams by hand (or using computer technology to draw a diagram) is a valuable skill for many majors and career fields, including engineering, medicine, and graphic design. in the second part of this assignment, students will expand their diagrams into works of functional art by adding expressive colors, incorporating poetry, or adding photographs to the diagram. Bringing in art and literature in this way will allow the students to consider how a seemingly isolated medical experience speaks to the body and the person as a whole. What you’ll need: * a text on the human heart and its role in the circulatory system, and a text/discussion on sudden cardiac arrest. * either physical drawing/art supplies, or access to computers with software for producing the diagram. (note: if students are expected to provide these supplies, best to mention it in the syllabus and include such supplies in your official textbook order before the beginning of the semester.) *a guest instructor who specializes in art and can guide the student scientists in meaning-making through their diagrams. a model for teaching: 1. student scientists will read text(s) and discuss the human heart and its role in the circulatory system. students will also discuss how the human heart behaves differently during trauma, including myocardial infarction and especially sudden cardiac arrest (sca). 2. During class time, students should render a diagram of the human heart using physical drawing supplies or computer software. after rendering this diagram, leSSon PlanS and PromPtS_STARKWEATHER & MACBRIDE 143 students should label the parts of the heart involved in sca and describe what is happening to those parts during the arrest. 3. after initial feedback from the instructor, students should make necessary revisions to their diagrams to be accurate. at this point, a guest art instructor should come in to discuss the role of medical information in the art world, especially in terms of how medical information can become functional or educational art. this discussion can lead to brainstorming among the student scientists (now artists) about how to make the diagrams as artistically expressive as they are informative. 4. if possible, the guest instructor should return to guide students as they add different colors, background schemes, words/statements (like poetry or a short narrative), or photographs of sca survivors. at the least, the guest instructor should help the course instructor provide feedback on the students’ progress in communicating the medical emergency in an innovative way. 5. after the diagrams are complete, students should discuss as a class places to donate their work, including retirement homes, local hospitals, houses of worship, community centers, etc. Medical technology Biology/Chemistry: Testing Awareness of our Stressors Goals/outcomes: students will become familiar with the effects of stressors on the mind and body, learning how to test for elevated stress levels by measuring their cortisol levels in their saliva. By measuring cortisol levels in relationship to stressors, students will learn how to anticipate stress effects on their bodies and on the bodies of others, not only leading to improved professional intuitions in patient care, but also bettering students’ self-care during their studies. What you’ll need: * a copy of the article “Measuring salivary cortisol in the Behavioral neuroscience Laboratory,” available here: and other readings from the class text(s) on the effects of stress on the mind and body. 144 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe 4.13 refleCTions on T eaChing Molly Starkweather and Michael MacBride MeDicaL huManities: MoVinG BeYonD the MeDicaL anD the huManities a strong cup of chai sat in front of me next to a list. the list had lots of hastily scribbled, optimistic ideas about how to ramp up interdisciplinary writing across campus. i looked around the campus café and saw all the different walks of campus life—students, administrators, faculty, and staff. i found myself wondering, how could we get together and do something amazing? something that would affect the whole campus in a meaningful way? My first-year writing administrator, rex Veeder, joined me right on time for our meeting. he started telling me about the Medical humanities, how enriching a movement it was, and how there was a place for everyone in it. i was relieved to discover that more experienced campus leaders can have the same kind of optimism that i, an ambitious adjunct, had. While i was impressed with the person telling me about the Medical humanities, i must admit that the vision he was sharing did not impress me. i was skeptical. how could you fuse two different subjects so thoroughly? how could you have poetry in a nursing course, or a cPr demonstration in a creative writing classroom, as part of the curriculum? how could the Medical humanities survive beyond just health sciences and the humanities? My optimism, i realized, was not stronger than my doubts. i brainstormed, wrote in my journal, blogged, and talked with different people in my field of composition and beyond. My journey began with questions, and it ended with even better questions about how the Medical humanities might be the perfect opportunity to unite campuses for the greater good in a meaningful and lasting way. even though the two words in the movement are “medical” and “humanities,” the Medical humanities empowers all areas of higher education to survive and thrive. My first question was what the Medical humanities (Mh) even means. Mh can be defined as a fusion of the practical aesthetics found in medicine and in the humanities. a short Google search on the term leads to some of the nation’s top reflectionS on teaching_STARKWEATHER & MACBRIDE 145 medical schools, which are incorporating the arts, literature, history, and philosophy into compulsory coursework for physicians. Mh is also happening in patient care, where alzheimer’s patients listen to music and severely autistic children paint, with truly stunning results. Mh is branching out from medical schools to other graduate and undergraduate programs. Literature courses include lessons on mental illness, and mathematics courses discuss statistical risk analysis for heart disease among different populations. With so much medical information readily available to university students, it is easier now to empower them to live healthier lives by learning about medicine in the humanities and the humanities in medicine. But is helping students to live healthy lives part of the mission of a university? there has been forceful resistance to the idea of educating the whole person, from all corners of the campus. stanley fish wrote a call to higher education to get out of arenas like community service, political activism, and public health with his book Save the World on Your Own Time in 2008. the logic behind such a call is that students are not looking to become better people by attending a university; instead, they want to become educated people. Does one necessarily exclude the other? Does the updated model of “a gentleman and a scholar” mean sleepless nights, sedentary studying, and a host of stress-related illnesses, all because leading a healthy life does not count as part of our priorities for teaching our students or, indeed, for our own careers? some educators say the only job an educator should have is to help students master content and skills for a particular discipline in which they are an expert. these educators have solid reasoning for this position. susan resneck Parr (1985) found herself frustrated by what she calls “content-free education,” or a system in which students are encouraged to think, read, and write well, but with less guidance as to what they should be thinking, reading, and writing about (p. 434). her frustration has been echoed, she shares, by educators who complain that the topics students cover in their quest for better critical thinking are not very important nor challenging. the definition that Parr makes for “important” seems to be traditional curricula, including ancient philosophy, ancient and modern history, and literature. While these are solid subjects of study, Parr dismisses applications of philosophy in pre-professional courses as drawing “only on case studies of current problems” (p. 439). We can see from Parr’s wording that there is room for cross-pollinating the disciplines, but only in terms of seeing relationships between individual disciplines and a larger tradition. We must, for instance, read literature “as literature” (p. 444). these are legitimate frustrations, but they could also be understandable growing pains, considering the larger picture of education’s development over time. there is a problem with Parr and other educators holding up an ideal of keeping literature literary and history historical as though it is an ancient, tried 146 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe and true model of education. the ancient model of education was to form polite citizens, in the ancient sense of polity, meaning part of the state, namely rome. the accomplished scholar was also a gentleman, active in the community and a strong social presence. the 20th century model of education was to form students who had a well-rounded foundation and a highly specialized skill set. sir Ken robinson gave a talk to the rhetoric society of america in 2010 that has been transformed into a popular animated Youtube video. in this talk, he argues that our curricula are based on two cultural forces—the enlightenment, and the industrial revolution. at 6:36 into the video, sir robinson explains, We have a system of education that is modeled on the interests of industrialization and in the image of it. i’ll give you a couple of examples. schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines—ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches. You know, we put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing these kids have in common is how old they are? it’s like the most important thing about them is their date of manufacture. (rhetoric society of america, 2010) of course higher education does not use crude bells or separation by age group, but we do have batches by level of experience and some pre-requisites that are, if we are honest, arbitrarily pacing the batches of college students as a sort of manufacture dating system. if we live in a post-industrial united states, then why do we hold fast to this model? is it any wonder that we have cross-curricular initiatives like Writing across the curriculum or Mathematics across the curriculum now? Why are freshman learning communities and other groupings of students among the disciplines popular not only with university administrators, but faculty as well? if we can agree that mastering cross-curricular skills is now on par with course content, and if we can agree that we should blur the lines among subjects of study, then we come to the question of what content meaningfully engages our institutions. With medical crises throughout the country, and with them being much easier to identify and eliminate than the constant threat of terrorism, it makes sense to take on health as part of an institution-wide focus for improving the educational experience of our students and the overall quality of campus life. the Medical humanities sounds like something large and unfamiliar, but in fact many campuses are already active in Mh-related initiatives. Does your campus have a ban on smoking? Do your majors need a physical education course in order to graduate? is parking limited and biking to class encouraged? campuses across the country know their responsibility for the health and safety reflectionS on teaching_STARKWEATHER & MACBRIDE 147 of their students; the Medical humanities unites those initiatives and transforms them into meaningful education opportunities. My last question about the Medical humanities was how to make this transformation from a movement within medical schools and the arts and letters to coalesce with existing university health advancements. the first answer is to keep the forward progress going with cross-disciplinary pollination and obscuring departmental boundaries. the second answer is to add health and aesthetics into the mix of our already growing body of across-the-disciplines curricula. schools who embrace Mh have painting in biochemistry labs, film screenings in physiology lecture halls, and psychiatry panels in literature seminars. individual instructors and faculty departments working long extra hours are responsible for these course developments, but when we think about it, most course developments come about this way. if you feel the pull toward becoming part of the Medical humanities in your own classroom, you might start to wonder how you can “do” Mh for your students in economics, marketing, or criminal justice. Your first resource is yourself. use your imagination! What is a creative activity (writing, sculpting, acting) that you enjoy doing or would like to try? that activity is something you can try in your classroom. You do not need an expert in this medium to guide you or your students if you want to incorporate something like sculpting into your course. the aesthetic experience in itself will enrich the course content and skills students are mastering. of course, if you can bring in faculty from the arts and letters, your efforts can help with fostering a cross-curricular community. Meanwhile, there is a host of resources for incorporating one discipline into another. frances e. reynolds and ilayana Pickett (1989) give specific, “on the ground” advice about rationale, writing assignments, and even grading rubrics in their article “read! think! Write!: the reading response journal in the Biology classroom.” instructors of nursing and other health sciences can learn how to incorporate reading imaginative literature into their courses in ronald a. caron’s (1994) “teaching ethics in the context of the medical humanities.” foreign language instructors can use sander Gilman’s (2008) “Bilingualism in the world of health and illness” to create meaningful discussion around patients who move from one language to another in the u.s. medical system. instructors at business schools should consider including Megan Brown’s (2004) “taking care of business: self-help and sleep medicine in american corporate culture” to talk about healthy relationships between employee and employer when it comes to working at home. With opportunities for teaching aesthetic health so readily available throughout the disciplines, it is time to take the Medical humanities beyond medical 148 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe schools and the humanities. it is time for classroom instructors to bridge curricula, and it is time for administrators to facilitate a truly healthier campus. students and other campus citizens cannot engage in meaningful, life-long learning without addressing the threats they face to their health. Mastering nutrition and disease awareness cannot be limited to one or two required physical education courses, and mastering creativity and critical thinking cannot be limited to a humanities course sequence. our graduates should leave campus prepared to make a living and a life for themselves. in order for the university to survive and thrive, it must empower its entire campus community to survive and thrive. References Brown, Megan (2004). taking care of business: self-help and sleep medicine in american corporate culture. Journal of Medical Humanities, 25 (3), 173-187. carson, r. a. (1994). teaching ethics in the context of the medical humanities. Journal of medical ethics, 20 (4), 235-238. Gilman, s. L. (2008). Bilingualism in the world of health and illness. Journal of Medical Humanities, 29 (3), 137-146. Parr, s. r. (1985). skills in a vacuum. The Antioch Review, 43 (4), 434-444 reynold, f. e. and Pickett, i. (1989). read! think! Write!: the reading response journal in the Biology classroom.” The American Biology Teacher, 51 (7), 435-437. rhetoric society of america [thersaorg]. (Producer). (2010, october 14). Changing education paradigms [Youtube video]. available from watch?v=zDZfcDGpL4u ProMPts 1. Writing doesn’t have to take a lot of time. it can be a few sketchy words or notes here or there, or something longer. after you’ve written, you might find you want to go back and revisit something and tinker, or you might find you’re done exploring that topic or idea. for me, a useful exercise is one in reduction. When the son, in the film A River Runs Through It (1992), brings his father a draft of something he’s written, the father glances at it and says: “again. half as long.” through this, the son learns how to write concisely. But, there’s another lesson here as well. By revisiting material again and again, and by paring it back to the bare bones, you reveal the heart of the matter which is impossible to see otherwise. think about something that’s been nagging you. it can be a reccurring dream, an idea for an invention, a conversation you overheard, a snippet of a movie that resonated with you, a reflectionS on teaching_STARKWEATHER & MACBRIDE 149 piece of graffiti that caught your eye, or whatever. Write it all out. Don’t hold back. Don’t take time to edit it. Don’t process what you’re writing. Just write. sometimes it even helps to set a timer. the timer restricts the amount of time you’ll spend on the activity, but it also provides a reminder that you should be doing something until the beep sounds. When you’re done, read it. after you’ve read it, rewrite it half as long. repeat at least three times. if you’re already concise, try your hand at writing it in 140 characters. (no need for a twitter account to participate.) 2. Writing doesn’t have to happen in a formal setting, or in a formal way. a computer is not required. nor is a perfectly clean piece of paper. napkins, scraps of paper, business cards, magazines, and all work just fine. if you have to stop to think about where and when you can write something down, you’re more apt to forget to do it. Likewise, waiting for “inspiration” to strike can be dangerous—as it just might not strike at all. a useful exercise is to get in the habit of reflecting on a set schedule. each hour, reflect on what’s happened. if you’re ambitious, maybe every half-hour. it doesn’t have to be profound. it doesn’t have to be long. Just take a few seconds, breathe, and jot something down that has to do with what you’ve experienced since you last wrote. at the end of the day, you’ll have bits and pieces of your day that you might have forgotten otherwise. You also might have the germ of something you want to explore further. it helps sometimes to have a small pad of paper that you can carry in your pocket, particularly if you work somewhere that napkins, business cards, and the like are scarce. try it for two days. i think you’ll find those moments of reflection offer a real chance to relieve anxiety and to process what you’ve been through. 3. take a moment and revisit a childhood illness, visit to the doctor, or a trip to the hospital. What were you there for? how did you feel? how were you treated? how did this help form your perspective of health care? 4. aimee copeland contracted the flesh eating bacteria in May of 2012, and joked with her parents in the hospital. When they tried to console her saying she was beautiful and compared her to the Mona Lisa, she aggressively shook her head and replied, “i’m nothing like the Mona Lisa. she doesn’t have eyebrows.” Kaleb Langdale lost half of his right arm to an alligator attack July 2012, and he too was in good humor. first smiling and ensuring his aunt took a picture to post on facebook, and then later laughing that, “at least it didn’t get my [left] arm. i can still drive my airboat because the airboat is powered with the left.” it’s long been said that laughter is the best medicine. think of an example of someone you know, or met, who exhibited a great sense of humor in the face of hardship. What made them laugh the most? how did his or her 150 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe sense of levity make you feel? Did you feel you could laugh with them? Why or why not? 5. after reading Jimmy Baca’s “two stories about stories,” take a moment to reflect on the purpose of stories. Do you believe, as Baca does, that stories are essential to humanity? What function do you believe stories serve? if you don’t believe stories are essential, why do you believe others find literature, storytelling, and writing important? 6. What life experience has strengthened you the most? 7. is science or art more essential to humanity? 8. What’s the last thing you cried about? 9. in the tV show LOST, the character Dr. Jack shephard relates a story about a surgery on a young girl. he felt overwhelmed. But, eventually he says, “i just made a choice. i’d let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for 5 seconds, that’s all i was going to give it. so i started to count, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. then it was gone. i went back to work, sewed her up and she was fine.” While this is obviously fictionalized, and sometimes 5 seconds can be the difference between life and death, what coping mechanism works for you in similar stressful situations? Where did you learn it? if someone taught you this trick, who were they and why did he or she say this trick worked for him or her? 10. how can writing, poetry, or journaling be helpful in managing an illness (whether that be a physical or mental illness)? 11. Describe the last time you can remember that someone actively listened to you. What were the circumstances and how did you feel during and after? 12. Do you, or someone you care about, have an illness (mental or physical)? are you comfortable talking about it with others? Why or why not? 13. if you have a friend that is grieving a loss, what are two offers that you can make to help? What do you need when suffering a loss? Describe the last major loss in your life. 14. What was a time in the recent past that you remained hopeful and it worked out? 15. When you feel overwhelmed how do you usually react? 16. What are three occurrences that happened in your past that you are forever grateful? refLection When i first tell people that i teach english, their reaction is, almost always, “oh boy, i need to watch my grammar.” if we talk much longer, and i don’t change the subject, they almost always recall some painful writing assignment they were reflectionS on teaching_STARKWEATHER & MACBRIDE 151 given that was x pages long. Where “x” is a value greater than 5 and less than 50. (sorry for introducing math to this essay, the other subject that people hope to leave behind once the doors of education close behind them). for them, writing is something that happens very clinically and in a controlled environment. they’re used to being given an assignment (whether it be in school or in the workplace) that spells out what they need to accomplish. the most important part of that prompt for them? the word count or page length. But, of course, there is more to writing than how long it is. and, writing does not have to happen in a formal setting, or be polished or perfectly grammatically correct. unfortunately, the only way to convince people otherwise is to get them writing and to break down some of these barriers. that’s what, i hope, these prompts do. the goal of these prompts is to get people writing who don’t usually write. these are for people who “don’t have time” for writing. the hope is to generate ideas, to get the gears turning, and to help re-educate that writing is tool, not a punishment or torture. in this case, the “project” or “task” at hand is healing through reflection. conversation with friends or co-workers helps in sifting through the debris of the day, dreams help sort out some of the more difficult things that your conscious mind can’t quite put together, support groups help, and writing can help, too—any kind of writing. some people keep a diary or journal. some carry a pad of paper in their breast pocket. others use social media (facebook status updates, or twitter, or a blog, etc) to share quips or gripes. some sit down at a typewriter, or pick up a pad of paper. something happens in the transmission of ideas to text. You can see your thoughts, right there in front of you. You can react. You can order them. You can de-clutter your mind. and, once it’s written down, you can revisit these ideas. You can re-react to them. You can re-order them. You can revise. You can scratch them entirely and start anew. But, in that act of writing, whether it be private or shared, the healing begins. rhetoric, at its core, is about communication—in particular, finding the most effective, or best, method of communicating something to an audience. reflection is about communicating with yourself. it does not need to take on a specific form or type, it does not to be perfect, it does not need to be “grammatically sound,” it just needs to work for you. not all these prompts will strike your fancy. not all of them will elicit great things from you. Pick and choose a few here and there. Give it a try. the hope is that one of these questions might spark an idea, or summon an old memory, or force you to look at something in a new way. in doing so, and in reflecting on that idea, and in writing about that idea, you might be able to process an old wound, or to better appreciate someone else’s perspective, or simply be 152 4_Do it. Do it. Do it. : teachinG the art anD science of surViVe anD thriVe more engaged. the first step is in getting those first words on the page. after that, i think you’ll find a desire to return to those words, because something was left out, or something wasn’t said, or something wasn’t said in “quite the right way.” Maybe you’ll even find that you have more to say about that idea, and you want to add to it. You might not want to share your first words with someone else, but after you’ve had some time to hash it out a bit and revisit the idea some more, you might find that you’re ready to hear what someone else thinks about what you’ve written. You might find that you want another person’s perspective. and, if you share with someone, you might even find that the person (or persons) you share with have a similar experience, or, at the very least, an empathetic ear. healing happens with those first words. the more you return to them, the more you find they have to offer. these prompts are just the kindling. it’s up to you to start the fire. reflectionS on teaching_STARKWEATHER & MACBRIDE 153 154 C onTribUTor b iograPhies Debbie Gillquist is the executive Director of take heart Minnesota, which is part of a national initiative, take heart america, to increase the survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest victims. Professionally Debbie began her career in emergency medicine as a paramedic for Minnesota’s largest ambulance service, allina Medical transportation, with her last position being that of Director of clinical services. she conceptualized, organized and implemented allina’s first cardiac care conference for eMs. she is the executive Director for the Mn ambulance association and a very proud grandma to twin granddaughters. she lives in Minnesota with her nutty black lab, Max. Alberto Ríos’s ten collections of poetry include The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the national Book award. his most recent book is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, which received the 2007 Pen/Beyond Margins award. Published in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other journals, he has also written three short story collections and a memoir, Capirotada, about growing up on the Mexican border. regent’s Professor and the Katharine c. turner chair in english, ríos has taught at arizona state university for over 30 years. Keith Geoffrey Lurie, MD received his undergraduate education in architecture and molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale university and a medical degree from stanford university in 1982. following a clinical pharmacology fellowship at stanford (1982-1983), a residency in internal medicine at the university of Pennsylvania (1983-1985), a fellowship in biochemistry and biophysics at the university of Pennsylvania (1985-1987), Dr. Lurie completed his cardiology and electrophysiology training at the university of california in san francisco. he moved to Minnesota in 1991. Dr. Lurie is currently a Professor of internal Medicine and emergency Medicine at the university of Minnesota and he practices cardiac electrophysiology in st. cloud two days/week. he has received multiple national institute of health and Defense Department grant awards and is an inventor of multiple different technologies. Dr. Lurie served on the american heart association Basic Life support subcommittee from 1998-2007. he co-founded take heart america in 2005. 155 Rex Veeder has and M.f.a. and a Ph.D. in rhetoric, composition, and the teaching of english from the university of arizona. he has been teaching since 1970, published in Rhetoric Society Quarterly and Rhetoric Review as well as numerous poetry magazines and regional journals. he served as editor for the Rhetoric Society Quarterly. he was an assistant Vice President for faculty relations for eight years and served briefly as the Vice President for academic and student Life at a community and technical college. since then, he has returned to teaching and has focused on multi-genre and multi-media composition theory and practice as well as Medical humanities. Jimmy Santiago Baca was raised first by his grandmother and later sent to an orphanage. a runaway at age 13, it was after Baca was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison that he began to turn his life around: he learned to read and write and unearthed a voracious passion for poetry. his first book of poetry, Immigrants in Our Own Land, was published in 1979. he is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the american Book award, the international hispanic heritage award and for his memoir A Place to Stand the prestigious international award. in 2006 he won the cornelius P. turner award. Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. he has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country. Jena Strong holds degrees from Barnard college and emerson college and is the author of “Don’t Miss this,” a memoir of poems about marriage, motherhood, coming out, and coming home to oneself. she lives in Burlington, Vermont with her two daughters. Carol Allis has been writing poetry since her father gave her a manual underwood typewriter when she was seven. Born and raised in rochester, Minnesota, she graduated from st. olaf college in northfield with a degree in english education, and has spent most of her working life in public service. she currently writes news for a living as a public information officer for hennepin county in Minneapolis—paring down governmentalize into words ordinary people can understand. she lives in Minnetonka with two cats and a herd of deranged squirrels, close to beloved family. she wants to help bring back the loving link that used to exist between ordinary people and their poets. Brad Isberner is currenlty serving as the Director of Driver education teacher Preparation at st. cloud state university. his teaching and administrative assignment at scsu focuses on traffic safety education, teaching Licensure Program. With extensive experience in driver education classroom and in-car instruction, 156 Brad combines the current theories of instruction methodologies with practical application. his research work has concentrated on students in kindergarten through 12th grade and the prevention of impaired driver issues for today’s youth drivers. he has had numerous publications in the Minnesota Driver education Milepost newsletter, a publication specifically focusing on traffic safety education. O’Brien J. (“O.J.”) Doyle, Jr. has lobbied/consulted for eMs primarily in Minnesota for nearly 30 years. he is a retired nationally registered Paramedic, prior owner of a rural ambulance service and former operations Manager for a metro aLs ambulance. Prior to his involvement in eMs, Doyle served as a special assistant to the Governor of Minnesota, and in senior staff positions with the Minnesota, illinois and Michigan legislatures. he has published over 30 articles and is the only full-time state eMs lobbyist in the country. Leslie Council is a former journalist turned editor, artist, art director and graphic design specialist, photographer, tattooed, pierced and multi-field educated single mom of a young indigo challenge. she is a proud participant of the tumblewords Writing Project. her works can be found in among the ruins, sassy Magazine, tejano tribune, chrysalis, Low rider arte, tattoo flash, harbinger asylum, unlikely stories of the third Kind and Mezcla. she self-published zines: Mind explozion, Message of the Muse, Blank Page, rigorMortis1376 and is current editor of the tumblewords Project anthology: Mezcla 2. Marques McLothan was born in Milwaukee, Wi and lived there with his dad for the majority of his life. he currently attends saint cloud state university in saint cloud, Mn. he was influenced by music and poetry and ended up transferring both into spoken word. his goal is to influence the lives of the people with his words, whether it’s through music or spoken word. Steve Klepetar teaches literature and creative writing at saint cloud state university. his work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the net; his most recent chapbook, “My father teaches Me a Magic Word,” was recently published by flutter Press. Leslie Aguillard received art and teaching degree from illinois state university 1968, worked as a commercial artist and designer for over 25 years and then part time freelancer, teacher and studio artist continues into her retirement as well as mentoring serious students. her work spans from carving marble to sketching cartoons, commercial design to fine art, crafting fiber art as well as fashion design and couture art creations. “art has shaped society since ancient times and needs to continue to push our evolution forward.” 157 Donna Salli has an Mfa from uMass-amherst and received a Mentor series award in Poetry from the Loft. her poems and essays have appeared in various journals, magazines, and anthologies. her play The Rock Farm has been produced in Michigan and Minnesota, and in finland in translation. the play was done as a staged reading with a panel critique at the Great Plains theatre conference in May. she is also working to place my first novel. Pam L. Secklin received her Ph.D. in interpersonal communication from Purdue university in 1995. her research, writing interests and publications include autoethnographic forms of inquiry in the study of lived human experiences, especially those in close relationships. she currently teaches courses in health communication and interpersonal communication in the communication studies Department at saint cloud state university. Linda Zoucha is a massage therapist who frequently hears bits of poetry streaming through her head and sometimes writes them down. she loves to read and she loves to talk to people who love to read. she also loves theater, dance, painting and music. in other words she loves the arts. and, she loves farming! Leon Laudenbach writes: Most days i get up wondering what happen to my wallet or car keys. there’s this thing about ones memory or lack of one that so perplexing. the difference between success and failure is not who stands behind you, but the juice you got floating in your melon. if i could actively recall every important detail of my life, i would have had more time being a success. there are a few things i remember from childhood that shaped me into what i think i am today, Grandma Laudenbach for one. Between chores and kneeling down praying the rosary she got me thinking about music. i think its more then a thought, which i believe is distructive to living a good life, its a gift from God, it has nothing to do with who you are, its just a signal passing through. Grandma gave me lessons on piano, music been a passion ever since. i played legion hall, chicken coops and american pickers parades but sometimes i get a good gig. for the last 20 some years i have been a songwriter, the signal passing through lets me do that. i use to challenge myself to writing a song a day and sometimes two; this went on for years until i read eckart tolle’s A New Earth where i learned to keep my passions in check. now i’m just a boring son-of-a-bitch. other than what you can find on my web site, i am in the middle of completing an audio book with an accompanying music, a cD called Mother Pearls Love Letters, which will come out at the end of 2012. i can’t forget that the editor of this anthology and i collaborated on a musical called The Head Waters Blues Opry in 2010. i have been blessed in many ways. for further information on shows and musical happenings please check 158 Meghan MacNamara received her Master of fine arts degree from Vermont college. she is finishing work on her memoir, Never Thought of Losing, which explores her journey from amateur boxer to Ms patient. Meghan lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she teaches composition and medical humanities, volunteers with a hospice organization and manages a dog rescue. Brian Baumgart coordinates the creative writing afa program at north hennepin community college in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, where he also teaches in the english Department. he holds an Mfa in creative Writing from Minnesota state university, Mankato. his writing has been published in or is forthcoming from various journals, including Sweet, Blue Earth Review, The Conium Review, and Ruminate. in addition to his writing and teaching life, Brian researches environmental and holistic health issues while raising two children with his wife, Laura. he has broken all of his fingers and has been hit by a car—twice (different cars). Sara Wedeman is a writer, psychologist, and behavioral economist. she earned her PhD from the university of Pennsylvania with a study on the causes of and treatments for procrastination. in 1987, she began work on a public version of the treatise, entitled Procrastination: The Best Book You’ll Never Read. that its completion date remains indeterminate stands in testimony to the vastness of her expertise on the subject. Mary Willette Hughes, married to Mark, is a musician, teacher, poet, and mother of seven. she has had three books of poetry published: Quilt Pieces, Flight On New Wings, and The Shadow Loom Poems. During the last twelve years she has worked part-time for the st. cloud hospital’s recovery Plus Program for addiction/recovery as a facilitator of poetry therapy and has given numerous presentations about poetry as therapy, both locally and at national venues. in april, 2010, the national association of Poetry therapy presented her with a Public service award for her work at recovery Plus. in april, 2010, she received an individual artist award again (also in 1998) for her poetry writing, granted by the central Minnesota arts Board. Frankie Condon, PhD is an associate Professor of english and faculty coordinator of the Writing center at the university of nebraska-Lincoln. her most recent book, I Hope I Join the Band: Narrative, Affiliation, and Antiracist Rhetoric was released in the spring of 2012 by utah state university Press. her current research interests include antiracist rhetoric in the radical labor movements of the early 20th century, gift economies and the teaching of writing, and grammars and rhetorics of the body. frankie lives in Lincoln, nebraska with her husband, her mother, 159 and her three children as well as two dogs, a cat, and a chinchilla, named for famed hockey legend sidney crosby. Jason T. Lewis was born in West Virginia. he has lived in new York city, and iowa, as well. he is a graduate of the fiction program at the iowa Writers’ Workshop. his writing has appeared in Yemassee, Connotation Press, Little Village, and Tape Op. his first novel, The Fourteenth Colony: a novel with music, was published in november 2011 along with a companion album of songs written by Jason in the voice of the novel’s protagonist. Jason and The Fourteenth Colony were recently featured on iowa Public radio’s Talk of Iowa. Jason is the director of the Writing and humanities Program at the university of iowa carver college of Medicine, managing editor of The Examined Life: A Literary Journal of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and co-director of the recently formed humanities Distinction track at the same institution. a singer, songwriter, and producer for nearly 25 years, Jason has released four albums of original material, first with his group, star city, and most recently with sad iron Music. Jeff Carmack has an Mfa in creative Writing from the Jack Kerouac school of Disembodied Poetics of the naropa university. he is the arts & cultural heritage Producer at KVsc radio in st. cloud, Mn, producing over 60 half hour features highlighting the arts and culture of central Minnesota as well as being a writer and producer of the Granite city radio theater, a partnership with KVsc and the Pioneer Place theater. also at the Pioneer Place, Jeff has been a writer, assistant director, resident poet, and actor in the Veranda Variety hour, a late night comedic disaster now in its 5th season. Jeff also teaches commas, semicolons, and general well roundedness to college students at a couple local colleges in st. cloud, Mn. Jessica Lourey is the author of the critically-acclaimed Murder by Month Mysteries. the eighth, December Dread, will be released october 2012. The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, the first in a young adult series that celebrates the power of stories, will be released august 2012. Jessica teaches writing and sociology at a Minnesota community and technical college. Grant F Haake is a singer, writer, and actor, after being involved in the theatre scene of st cloud for several years, became known in the music scene as the lead singer of the revolution 5, a Beatles tribute band. Grant grew up in the country outside of Williston, nD with 160 acres of bandlands and his dog, which he credits as helping him develop his creative side. When there’s nobody around, it’s easy to pretend to be robin hood swordfighting out in the trees. the next step is being comfortable doing it in front of people! he received a degree in theatre arts from the university of north Dakota and loves every opportunity to please 160 a crowd. he is thrilled to have been included in several aspects of survive and thrive and would like to thank his amazing girlfriend Liana and beautiful daughter nora for their love and support and for being a constant source of inspiration. Wendy Brown-Báez is a writer, teacher, performance poet and installation artist. she is the author of Ceremonies of the Spirit and transparencies of light and her prose and poetry have appeared in dozens of literary magazines. . she has appeared from chicago to Puerto Vallarta in cafes, bars, bookstores, galleries, community centers, and retreats. Wendy received McKnight foundation and Minnesota state arts Board artist initiative grants to present writing workshops for at risk youth and in non-profits. Donna Snyder is a poet and lawyer in el Paso, texas. VirgoGray Press published her chap, I Am South. her poetry is in anthologies and journals such as Mezcla: art and writing from the tumblewords Project, Bordersenses, the Montucky review, and Musophobist. and a recent book, I Am South by VirgoGray Press. she founded the tumblewords Project in 1995, and still presents weekly writing workshops for the community. Stephen Tuytschaevers was born & raised in Valparaiso, indiana. he has a B.a. in art history from Purdue university, an M.a. in english studies from st. cloud state university, and he’s currently working on an M.s. in community counseling. the son of a Vietnam War veteran, he served for nine years in the army and is himself an iraq War vet. his career goal is to become a narrative therapist and help veterans and their families heal after the experiences of war and life. as a representative of the Veterans Book Project, he promotes through first-hand experience the healing power of writing. Denise VanBriggle, Mfa, is a career educator, teacher-consultant with the national Writing Project, and an official Prison Visitor with the Pennsylvania Prison society. since her retirement in 2011, armed with formal and practical experience K-12 through university, she fuels her love of teaching and writing through cityscape consulting and her love of music and movement through JourneyDance™. Denise spends most days following her combined passions as she explores the power of the expressive arts to act as change agents, perspective shifters, and resilience builders in her own life and the lives of others. she is currently collaborating with poet Jimmy santiago Baca and teacher-consultant Kym sheehan on curricular ideas and educational programming to complement his early prison poems and the documentary film A Place to Stand. 161 Aksania Xenogrette is a mysterious poet and scholar of poetry as well as a performer in the twitter world. a poet and artist he is constantly posting and followed by legions of people who find his work challenging and delightful. aksania travels with other names and has attended Mfa programs but found his restless nature needed other places to write in and about. You can find him @gadgetgreen on twitter. Joseph Bruchac holds a B.a. from cornell university, an M.a. in Literature and creative Writing from syracuse and a Ph.D. in comparative Literature from the union institute of ohio. his work as an educator includes eight years of directing a college program for skidmore college inside a maximum security prison. With his late wife, carol, he founded the Greenfield review Literary center and the Greenfield review Press. he has edited a number of highly praised anthologies of contemporary poetry and fiction, including Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back, Breaking Silence (winner of an american Book award) and Returning the Gift. his poems, articles and stories have appeared in over 500 publications. he has authored more than 120 books for adults and children, including The First Strawberries, Keepers of the Earth (co-authored with Michael caduto), Tell Me a Tale, When the Chenoo Howls (co-authored with his son, James), his autobiography Bowman’s Store and such novels as Dawn Land, The Waters Between, Arrow Over the Door and The Heart of a Chief. John Jodzio is a winner of the Loft-McKnight fellowship and the author of the short story collection, If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home (replacement Press, 2010). his work has appeared in One Story, Barrelhouse, Opium, The Florida Review and various other places in print and online. he lives in Minneapolis with his wife Katie, his new son theo, and a lifetime supply of tacos. Francis E. Kazemek is a professor emeritus from st. cloud state university and most recently in 2011 a professor in the english Department at Lcc international university in Klaipeda, Lithuania. his poetry and short stories have been published in various magazines and journals. the value of poetry--in all of its forms-for people of all ages and its importance in helping individuals become critical and creative thinkers, readers, and writers is one of his ruling passions. Jerry Wellik edD is professor of special education at st. cloud state university, st. cloud, Minnesota. he is interested in intergenerational storytelling and writing. he writes poetry and does storytelling and poetry readings in schools, churches and a variety of other community venues. 162 Alberto Ríos’s ten collections of poetry include The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the national Book award. his most recent book is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, which received the 2007 Pen/Beyond Margins award. Published in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other journals, he has also written three short story collections and a memoir, Capirotada, about growing up on the Mexican border. regent’s Professor and the Katharine c. turner chair in english, ríos has taught at arizona state university for over 30 years. Barbara Stahura, certified Journal facilitator, guides people with brain injury, family caregivers, and others in harnessing the power of therapeutic journaling for themselves. her acclaimed book After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story grew from her long-running journaling group in tucson, ariz., and is now in use around the country. she has also facilitated journaling events for the national Guard, state Brain injury associations, equine-facilitated experiential learning groups, writers, and others. a member of the Lash & associates speakers Bureau and the faculty of the therapeutic Writing institute, she lives in newburgh, ind., with her husband, a survivor of brain injury. Liana Livingstone completed her B.s in Biology and a B.a. in english at st. cloud state university in august of 2012. her interests include bioethics, rhetoric, and medical humanities, with an emphasis on interpreting between the scientific and the artistic mind. she currently works with survive & thrive and take heart Minnesota, while continuing to explore narrative medicine with her graduate studies at scsu. Jim Reese is an associate Professor of english; Director of the Great Plains Writers’ tour at Mount Marty college in Yankton, south Dakota; and editor-in-chief of PADDLEFISH. reese’s poetry and prose have been widely published, most recently in New York Quarterly, Poetry East, Paterson Literary Review, Louisiana Literature Review, Connecticut Review, and elsewhere. his new book ghost on 3rd (nYQ Books 2010) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in letters by new York Quarterly Books and was a finalist for the 2010 Milt Kessler Poetry award. since 2008, reese has been one of five artists-in-residence throughout the country who are part of the national endowment for the art’s interagency initiative with Department of Justice’s federal Bureau of Prisons. Audrey Shafer, MD, is a professor of anesthesia for the stanford university school of Medicine; staff anesthesiologist for the Veterans affairs Palo alto health care system; and director of the arts, humanities, and Medicine Program for stanford 163 center for Biomedical ethics. she is the author of the Mailbox, a novel about posttraumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans. Literature and Medicine Molly Wright-Starkweather completed her Ba in english at columbus state university in columbus, Georgia in 2006. she completed her Ma in english with a concentration in renaissance studies through the hudson strode Program at the university of alabama in 2008. her research interests include canonicity studies, appropriation and adaptation, and feminism(s) in rhetoric(s) of social media. her teaching interests are composition pedagogy, writing across the curriculum (Wac), and writing center theory and pedagogy. she is married to William starkweather, a pastoral scholar on healing and deliberate self-harm (Dsh). Ms. Wright-starkweather is a full time faculty member of the Kaplan university Writing center, where she is currently developing a “choose your own adventure” writing process game with the help of friend and former student, Miss Briana neves (Georgia college & state university). Michael MacBride is an adjunct instructor of english, Literature, and the humanities. his 8.5 year journey to his Bs in creative Writing involved pit stops in religious studies, Philosophy, computer science, art history, and art, and eventually led to a shorter quest for an Ma in Literature and a (nearly completed) PhD in 18th/19th century american Literature. Michael lives in Minnesota and firmly believes in the healing power of reflection and writing. Grace Harwood/images of amazing Grace is a photographer, portrait photographer, poet, and painter working primarily in acrylic post-modern abstract expressionism. in her next life, she will explore another letter of the alphabet, provided she lands back in this nexus of incarnation. she met rex Veeder at the dawn of history when both were students at illinois state university, in normal illinois, although there is precious little else “normal” about either of them. she lives happily in oakland, ca usa with her service pooch, foxy Lady. Kelly Beckius is a student at st. cloud state university, studying creative writing, art, and psychology. she hopes to apply visual and written arts to the healing processes of therapy. Kelly is from north Branch, Minnesota and spends her free time working on personal works of art and freelance pieces. she volunteers her time to senior citizens and teaches basic art skills while focusing on forming a sense of community with the residents. Kelly’s passion for using creativity as a healing tool and experience with personal obstacles drives her to help others in difficult situations find a sense of wellness. 164 PainTings and P iCTUres Page 5 heidi Jeub steadman Page 20 Leslie x council Page 26 Kelly Marie Beckius Page 29 heidi Jeub steadman Page 32 rex Veeder Page 41 heidi Jeub steadman Page 47 heidi Jeub steadman Page 53 Kelly Marie Beckius Page 64 stephen M. tuytschaevers Page 69 heidi Jeub steadman Page 71 Kelly Barie Beckius Page 84 aksania xenogrette Page 86 heidi Jeub steadman Page 113 Grace harwood Page 120 rex Veeder Page 122 heidi Jeub steadman Page 132 Kim Deschamps Page 132 Kim Deschamps Page 134 Kim Deschamps Page 135 Leslie x council Page 141 rex Veeder Page 154 rex Veeder 165 166

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