A visit from The Healing Muse: 'On Obesity,' 'Great Grace and Sharp Wings' and 'Rage'
Deirdre Neilen, PhD, shares a selection from Upstate‘s literary journal, “The Healing Muse,” every Sunday on “HealthLink on Air.” Neilen is the editor of the annual publication featuring fiction, poetry, essays and visual art focused on themes of medicine, illness, disability and healing. Read The Healing Muse Cafe Blog.
Today‘s selections are "On Obesity" by Sophia Valesca Görgens, "Great Grace and Sharp Wings" by Jessica Mehta and "Rage" by Sarah Kuhlman. Order your copy of “The Healing Muse” today.
Deirdre Neilen, PhD: Eating disorders cause great suffering. Treatments vary in efficacy and can bring their own sets of problems. Three of our writers gave us insight into how health care professionals and others sometimes cause more stress to the people they say they wish to help.
Sophia Valesca Gōrgons is a medical student at Emory University. Here's her poem, "On Obesity":
There is a weight to my body I fear
causes doctors to judge me
for my lack of control. Just stop
eating, they say. Your risk scores
for heart disease are too high.
Don't you know better
treatments are available
than your own will to exercise?
(I admit I have no will to exercise.)
They list medical managements,
try to convince me of surgery
where they cut the stomach small.
I don't know how that can be better.
I had a friend who died on the table,
blood clot to the lungs. Or lost
too many vitamins. Called dumping syndrome --
as if giving it a name makes it worthwhile.
I live in this body and breathe. I am
worthwhile, but sometimes I forget
because of how, not what, how
they speak at me.
Jessica Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the author of several books. She is currently a fellow at the Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington, DC. Here's her poem, "Great Grace and Sharp Wings":
37 years old, and still starving myself -- how much
longer until I don't care anymore? You say,
Stop caring now, but I don't know
if I can be one of those old ladies
with limp hair and no lipstick.
(Not that this is old, it's just ...
when does old happen? How do we
simply slip into it like it fits? I'm not sure
I have the capacity to grow old
with grace or by any other means.)
Do we call fat 60-year-old women
fat-fat, or is that when plump begins?
How about 70? Or 80? When
does it all end and how do I stop
running hands over stomach
to see if today's a skinny day? My plan
is to die at 66, right before the life
insurance expires and maybe
(if I do it right) they'll say it was a slender
old woman who fell
with great grace and sharp wings
in front of that rumbling train.
There'll be no open casket, and guilt-
laden memories are kind to the dead.
(Please, if you remember, call me beautiful
in the obits and choose a photo
where my collarbones protrude like plumage.)
And finally, Sarah Kuhlman, a retired neonatologist from Springfield. Missouri, gives us a hint of the story behind one woman's weight in her poem, "Rage":
what you would take from me
I consume and assimilate
what you can't see in me
I add layers
dressing in armor
what you refuse to hear me say
I pad and stuff myself
muting my screams
I grow large
changing into scrubs
in nurses' locker rooms
she surrenders her thoughts
for a man's presentation
so others will listen
securing the mortgage
her name on the deed
her husband is listed as owner
delivered from her body
her children bear
their father's name
and so she ate
and ate and ate
and no one dared notice
I burn my banner
I squelched my rebellion
Not to walk the runway
or join the olympics of lust
Not to be
what I am told I should be
small, boyish, passive
I am a woman warrior
exhausted by the weight