A visit from The Healing Muse: 'Lunch at Sea Level' and 'Weekend at Rush Ranch'
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 "Lunch at Sea Level" and "Weekend at Rush Ranch," both by Sharon Pretti. Order your copy of “The Healing Muse” today.
Deirdre Neilen, PhD: Sharon Pretti is a poet, a teacher and a medical social worker. She gave us two poems that speak to each other. They craft a portrait of a family's strength and love through even the hardest times. First is "Lunch at Sea Level":
My mother sliced her dill into quarters,
forked the rust-edge of an iceberg leaf,
a tower of fries between us. Our talk
didn't stop; fence rot, her leg cramps,
the ghost click persisting under my hood,
then a poem she told me she'd read
in her life-long learning class,
the circle sparring over which word
sang: rock or stone.
Did I mention it was my birthday?
Whorls of gift bag glitter, turquoise tissue
escaping skyward? This piling of decades
and I couldn't say: my brother, your son's chemo is failing.
I spoke about the cliff-side cypress instead,
the red-tails spiraling above them.
She ooohed over the lupine unleashed
below and told me the class chose stone
for how it descends at the end of a line.
The waitress wiped our table clear
of crumbs. And no, there was nothing
more we wanted. We knew better,
but didn't soften, our grief guarded
and me motioning to the wind-topped waves,
how they seemed to ride in from nowhere,
how they swept against rock, fractured like light,
how none of the breaking stopped.
Her second poem is called "Weekend at Rush Ranch":
A grove of oaks to shade us, our feet
propped on a paddock holding the biggest
horse we'd ever seen, daylight pouring
over its flanks, its withers and forelock.
The neck, we wanted our hands there,
the shiver and sway of all things possible.
Dust clouds rose when we walked,
my brother's back to me, a narrowness
that was new, his shoulder blades jutting
like windows cranked into the heat-drunk day.
Fields of needle grass beyond the fence,
bent, then upright. A progression, he told me,
the cancer beetle-burrowing into his spine.
All those summers and we never learned
to ride, never mastered the tension and release
of reins, the weight shifts signaling a beast
toward speed or stillness. How does the body
know when to stop?
Lucky horse, my brother said. braided mane,
a diamond crest. We had to tilt our heads
to meet its eye, that amber globe, its center
flecked with our reflection. What could
this creature know of us? The storm inside
each breath? Our wildness?
We wanted a miracle: limb, cell, bone, lymph. All of it.