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Friday, August 21, 2015

My Spine Surgery Poems from Manor Care at Mercy Fitz

Copyright © 2015  S.L.Chast

31 JULY 2015

(for Florence)

Eighteen staples
finish the hand work
fusing her lumber spine

Eighteen staples
stand out stark now just
waiting for their time

Eighteen staples
remain between her
and Godly Cleanliness

Eighteen staples
once removed will make
an eighteen candle day.

When day's birth
includes long hot showers
and renews youth along the way.

05 AUGUST 2015

My vantage from the rehab center sets
me wondering what if, magically,
total contents of the bottom two shelves
of my bookcases vanished—POOF!—into
thin air.  Or thick air. Or any fine air.
What if?  How soon would I miss an item?

So tempted to hire someone to box, label
and move said items! I live without them
now—I have for weeks and will for weeks more.
What will go?  Do I really know?  Two tall
bottom shelves of art, architecture and
photography books, Far Eastern lesson

plans, Mexican lotteria.  Taller
books in theatre design.  Unable to
toss tomes of obscure feminist theory
and body politics.  But when did I
last look at them?   And when will I again?
What if everything shelved disappeared?

My vantage from the rehab center sets
me wondering—what if I disappeared?
Totally vanished—POOF!—into thin air?
Or thick air? Or any fine air?  Or book!
On the bottom shelves among the tall arts.
How soon before they notice me? Or look?

14 AUGUST 2015

(for Shanita)

Days billow by & I cannot catch them
I wish for a butterfly net
large enough and fine enough 
to capture them
at least in words. 
O!  There goes another!
So much lost: glancing eye & gestures
moments of love, sin, pain & surprise
I want to never forget

But days billow by & I cannot catch them
Trying, I fall behind this moment
dizzy & dangling from effort
until I must sit still instead
at this outdoor café 
to catch only my breath
& to watch over a cup of coffee
deliciously dark & steaming
Such satisfaction!

I may jot a note on a napkin
If I can take my eyes off the day
If I can stay still long enough
Within the billowing day
To get my bearings. 
What a day!  
& then another!
I stand to set my course gladly
through day by billowing day.

16 AUGUST 2015

(for Laarni)

Placing the hands to push off
then, standing,
Shift just so
Chair to walker to cane

Metaphors and similes
Like learning to drive stick shift
(though I can’t for this while)
Riding a bicycle, never forgetting
when I hear my true name called
and love the chance
that brought me 
to this retreat
and meeting myself

Stand, Balance, Place Hands, Shift
(Waking Post-Op, I cried out
Why can’t I walk?)
Each step is faith
In the body’s architecture
And the movement of the spirit
What if I could not relearn walking?
Many don’t walk yet thrive
Many could walk but don’t

I decide to walk
when I can
And Trust
To use the resurrection
Literally and figuratively
To stand inside the prayer
That dwells inside of me
That compels me to wake
to remember
to resurrect what
I used to know a little bit
And to be there more often.

17 AUGUST 2015

(for Gretchen)

Despite her effort, walking startled her
Into nausea and then into tears.

In miracles, they say, faith is the cure
And so surely she had touched holy space.

As had the surgeon’s hands and the nurture
Of food and drugs and nurses and helpers.

She forgot the time it took to study
Each first step; she forgot she could have stopped

Anywhere.   Moving forward, she balanced
Her legs between weight, feet and intention. 

Listening to her earthly teacher and
in tune with the one within, she faced fear

And walked through it onto the path that was
There always, waiting for her to reach it.

18 AUGUST 2015

(for Nakia)

You ask about the cafeteria
food and how the nurses neglected me,
but I tell you about not having to
figure out food and cooking and cleaning
and talk about the smiles of the people
who serve each day the same so the world turns.

I’ll never catch up with my own garden
never mind criticize the losses here.
The pepper and tomato plants I bought
at Pamela’s neighborhood sidewalk sale
are dead and the lilacs and wisteria are
overgrown.  The roses of Sharon sprawl
and no one has de-headed the dead buds
from my rose bushes so new ones can form.

I can’t stay or get angry anymore
now that physical pain is plucked from my
legs and spine, now that I’ve dared fertilize
the rest of my life.  I don’t know yet what
can grow or yield after a healing year. 
I may need another operation
or may be digging in the ground as if
I never suffered from sciatica.
None of us will be the same in a year.  

20 AUGUST 2015

Pus pours from the warmth behind my right hip
I try to walk, but my legs are from three
weeks ago—rubbery and non-responsive.
I teeter at the edge of my bed, reach
to find a cane, walker or wheelchair—all
gone—and I fall, fall, fall without finding
a floor to land on, rolling and bruising
my new back, denting and cracking ribs and
vertebrae until this fear explodes and
I am a lump of blood and puss marring
a green grassy landing field with red of
crushed rose petals and white of whipping cream.

I laugh.  How I imagined medical
intervention might work as if plastic
surgery on nerve endings!  Now I can
only write in candy cane colors, flat
as a pancake with curdled cottage cheese
and raspberries, each sentence a lie and
each line a painful cry for help, each crime
pleading for forgiveness. I tried to trick
fate.  Sorry.  Give me a spine.  I promise
never to covet another than mine,
to improve on the sculpture of nature.
Shape me again, so I can harden marred
but whole, so I can feel the bed’s edge near
my thigh and the drain hole closed in my back
and three weeks healed, a new installation.

21 AUGUST 2015

A Day Early

(for Dr. Paul Marcotte)

I wake on the single bed in my study
crickets and traffic tickle my ears
midnight hour

No buzzers, beeps and broken cries for nurses
no vast creamy walls devoid of art
ceiling fans

Earlier today, my surgeon smiled and shook
my hand earnestly, thinking I knew
our achievement

All is as it should be at four weeks after
such bold choices.  Imagine fixing
the problem

Instead of living with it—pruning  the tree
instead of watching its long branches

and crack the entire noble form nature made.


Copyright © 2015  S.L.Chast

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