Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Violins and A Sodden Bouquet of Carnations

Horizontal Curl

I'm loathe to tell ya'll about making sure Sophie gets enough to drink and how it gives me agita or even what might be mild anxiety attacks. I don't know why she can't purse her lips and suck on the cup. She's either forgotten how or bruised something or maybe it's the after effects of the eight grand mals or maybe it's the wind. I'm not prone to anxiety attacks, but I suppose an accelerated heartbeat, feeling of doom and shallow breathing constitutes one, as does the constant pricking at the eyes of tears. Sophie has had no more big seizures other than when she woke up this morning, but that one was quite mild and nothing to worry about. I've girded my loins, thrust off the I'm sick of this shit except when I look deep into hers and she is totally saying I'm sick of this shit, so I say, Yes. Me, too. Then I place the violin under my chin and make a grand flourish with the bow before playing us an appropriately plaintive tune.

I can't get this poem by Laura Kasischke out of my head. I have a book of her poetry, but this is a new one. It's in The Kenyon Review which I receive for free because I submitted something to be published and was rejected. The reason why my piece was rejected was because they publish poems like these. I know it's a long one, and I don't know why I am so drawn to it, but maybe it's because there are lines that seem lifted from my own experience, particularly my experiences in the last century even millennium in a small house in a suburb called Sylvan Park in Nashville, Tennessee. I have no idea either why that happens, how a poem or a piece of literature written by a stranger is pulled in tendrils from your own brain and set down in another century to be read on an afternoon when you'd just as soon hear violins.

The Whole

The surgeon peels the man
away from the man
to get a look at the whole
throbbing thing of him. The slick

little change purses, the seaweed. His
featherless birds
moistly dreaming. The rubied globes, but also
the mossy blades and edges. The rotting branches hanging
low with soggy leaves. And then

one velvet tail curled around a pulp-pink stone, right
next to the fetal totalitarians, their shallow breathing. The sticky
eyelids of a forgotten kitten. And that girl at Woodstock — too
young to be there, it seemed — lost

in the rainstorm in the dark among the demons, so that
the faster she ran the faster the tentacles sprang
out of the mud to snag her ankles. Her

skinny thighs, slippery with blood and spit. The rose

bloated in the bowl at the center of the great-aunt's table.
A cockroach crushed beneath the bridegroom's heel.
A pearl fallen off the wedding dress, swallowed by a baby girl.
The stippled button, snipped from the suit coast of the eldest
son in his coffin, pocketed by his brother. Then

the shameful, rubbery secret at the center of all of us, which
for this man long since slipped into the gut of an iridescent
fish (faceless) floating
here now in this thickened ocean between

today's patient's gray-eyed tumor (eyelashed, blushing) and
his liver, mucus-gleaming. The whole of it

just trying to be polite. As when
the in-laws would arrive on Saturday mornings, unannounced, in
their church clothes at one o'clock in the afternoon while we
were still sleeping off the night before. The door

opening very wide ("Hi!") as if none of it
has come as a surprise. Because

nature simply couldn't figure out another way
to make us, frankly, there being
so many things that no one wants to see.
The gallbladder, for instance. The spleen. The

intestines gathered as
a sodden bouquet of carnations some days, and
a toiling nest of shining snakes on other days. Or

the cook in the kitchen pinching the skin off the surface
of the scalded Hollandaise
with his filthy fingernails.

Oh, the waitress knows, and ladles the sauce over
your eggs Benedict anyway. And
the surgeon knows.
Sews you closed.

Laura Kasischke


  1. Oh, Sophie! Drink, my love!
    That poem is powerful.
    So are you.

  2. I feel for you deeply, Elizabeth.
    I recognize your fear and your intense exhaustion and I'm waiting for her to drink. She can do it.

  3. Sending love. May Sophie purse her lips and suck down liquid and ease your heart.

  4. Wow, what an amazing poem. Such a reminder of our mortal bodies. I hope Sophie begins drinking soon!

  5. I usually don't get poems but I really like this one. Thank you.

    I hope Sophie gets to drinking again soon.

  6. I hope you feel less anxious Elizabeth and that Sophie will soon be sipping again. I get the angst. I'm sorry it's been so rough of late. It seems so many in our community are going through particularly difficult episodes. Sigh. Sending love and holding thoughts of you in my heart.

  7. I think there needs to be a word - maybe in Yiddish? - for that ineffable anxiety a mother feels when her child is unable to eat or drink. Until then, best to pull out the violin. (I hope Sophie reaches down deep and connects with that sipping reflex very soon.)

  8. I'm so sorry for the pain you and your family go through. I can relate.



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