|Art by Likhain|
“Convalescence” by Alicia Cole
A soldier is sent into seclusion to convalesce in this poem that speaks to me of the pressure to heal, to “get better,” even when getting better is something that likely will never fully happen. The piece follows this narrator, who has survived a war but lives with the memories, with the trauma and depression and ideation. And I like how through this all the focus from everyone around them is just getting them back to “normal.” Not really to help them heal the way they need to but to keep them out of sight long enough that they can fake it well enough to be paraded about. To stop making the military look bad. And I feel this speaks to the idea of convalescence, that in this instance and historically it hasn’t been about what helps the...patients, I guess. It’s about banishing them from sight, about hiding them away so that the rest of the population doesn’t really have to face the realities of what they support. The wars that are fought and the lives that are ruined. Because war is so often seen as clean, where the only ugliness is in the heat of the moment, the rush of blood and death. What people don’t want to see is that the scars remain in so many people, keeping them tied to the memories of what they did and what was done to them. And the poem captures that from the point of view of a soldier who survived the battles but who is still caught up in the war. And how they seem to want to get better, but at the same time know that it happens at its own pace. And that it’s not only about pills, about the medication they are forced to take. And it’s a bit of a lonely, yearning piece to me, full of a quiet worry and a pervasive grief and a fragile hope that this will work and they will be able to go home, and be whole. A great read!
“You Wanted Me to Fly” by Julia Watts Belser
This poem speaks to me of resilience in the face of a dominant narrative. A narrative that says that bodies that don’t fit into the pervasive idea of “right” are in need of change, in need of fixing. Here the narrator speaks to a second person “you” about how they’ve had to drink down the opinions about their body and what people want from it. For me it points to how they had internalized the prejudice against disabled bodies, against those that fall outside the narrow confines of “normal.” For most of society, it just makes sense to trade in a body that “doesn’t work properly” for something that does. So things like replacing body parts, becoming something that can fly, sounds at first like it must be a positive. Because who wouldn’t want that? And the answer is a lot of people, because just because able people think that a body is broken or defective doesn’t just make it so. It’s the narrator’s body, and so it’s up to them how they want to define it, how they want to think of it. And I feel the poem represents them refusing to bow to the expectations and demands of the rest of the world. Refusing to accept that their body is broken and should be cast off. Refusing the idea that they should be sent into the sky because it would be useful for everyone else. They stand, visible, refusing to hide away or be changed, and that act is one of rebellion. It’s a statement of intent. That they aren’t going to just go along with what other people want for them. That they have wants, and those wants are no lesser because of their body. It’s a defiant piece for me, confronting the pressure to modify themself directly and saying loudly “no.” And I love how the form echoes that, the lines uneven, bringing to mind for me the limp that’s mentioned. It’s refusing even to conform to the neat rules of poetry, and instead is doing its own thing, proudly. Which makes for a wonderful read!
“hypothesis for apocalypse” by Khairani Barokka
This is a rather short poem that feels to me about endings, about violations. I will freely admit that most of my reading of this poem is from feel, from image and taste, as I find I might be missing the context of what exactly is going on. From the title, though, and the image of a sort of fruit being torn into, a world being torn into, I get the feeling that something violent is happening, but something that still carries a compelling beauty. The narrator of the poem speaks to an unknown second person, a “you,” and whether that is a person, is the reader, or is a planet, or some other being or object, is difficult for me to say. I feel that it’s most likely a planet that they’re speaking to, that they’re addressing. And that they’re speaking of the way that planets don’t have a voice, don’t exactly have enough people advocating for them. The piece opens with a reference to elders to explain how this you can be opened and, I’d guess, exploited. For sustenance, for flavor. There is the image of fingers piercing skin and blood issuing forth. For me it speaks of taking, taking and expecting this you to survive, to always survive, because you can’t say when is too much. Because you cannot speak back, speak for yourself, this is how harm is done, this is how the world might end, with the planet always silent in the face of its own violation. And I might be way off, but whatever the case it is a wonderful poem and definitely worth spending some time with!
“Spatiotemporal Discontinuity” by Bogi Takács
This poem, divided into three parts, seems to me to be about balance and movement, about memory and space. It focuses on a character, a “you,” who has gone through a shift...a journey. An event. And after this event things aren’t the same. They don’t quite meet up as they did. It seems to cause balance problems among other concerns, and leaves you having to face the differences, a body that does not respond as you remember it doing. And here I feel the piece pauses, in its second part, to capture how that feels. That after this event things have changed and there seems to be an attempt to heal. Silence and muted rooms and soft beds. A hospital maybe, or other care facility. And yet for you things are moving too slow, too incomplete. Though people say that the pain will pass, that everything will go back to the way it was, there’s a feeling that you know different. That some journeys are one way, and that on the other side there is the after, and it can’t meet up again with the before. But that’s not to say that there’s no way forward. No healing. The you here still fights to reclaim a part of themself. To fly. Not to return to where they came from—not to return to how they were, but for the joy of it, the feel of it. For the benefit of all sentience. And I like that resilience, that stubborn will that pushes you forward in the poem, that allows you to look very realistically at everything and still make the decision to go back out. To risk, essentially, it all happening again but worse. Because the risks are worth it. There’s a story here, I feel, a person fleeing something bad and doing something that breaks them through spacetime, that breaks part of them as they go. But that doesn’t break them. And by the end there is a feeling I get of rising again, of embracing the future in all its possibilities. An amazing read and a great way to close out what has been a phenomenal special issue!