Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature

Spring 2016

Volume 13 Issue 2



Breath and Shadow
Spring 2016

Volume 13, Number 2

Baptism by Linda A. Cronin

Three times a week, I come to the pool

at Children’s Specialized Hospital to exercise.

Even in the middle of winter, the warm, moist air

reminds me of the humid days of summer. Since

I’m unable to descend the ladder or to walk on land,

when I am ready Pam transfers me to a stretcher

which is lifted out over the pool then lowered gently

into the water where Sue stands ready to release me.

Click here to read Linda’s poem

Mutability, New Mexico by Mark A. Murphy

What is she doing out here in the suburbs, so far

from her woodland home, surveying the yard next door?

Perhaps she hungers for worldly things,

human yards paved with gold?

Oh, we know, she is no magpie, and still

the nude silver-birch loves her kind

as we love them both in their kindnesses...

Click here to read Mark’s poems

Crushed by Douglas Kolacki

Is it a sin to love a person who doesn't return it?

It all depends on whether the poor wretch asked for it. That is, dreaming once too often of his beloved, calling her to mind again and again until she’s stuck there, igniting a fury of emotions and now what's he to do about it?

Forget the obvious answer, for she's already taken. Or, if she's noticed him, sees not a Prince Charming but a Norman Bates. This is the age of crazies and stalkers.

Perhaps it's no sin, but it brings sin's consequences all the same. If the Spanish inquisitors could have tapped into this fever for the purpose of extracting confessions, they'd have done so. If you could measure it with something like a Geiger Counter, it would peg the scale. If you could pinpoint it on a geo-synchronous comsat, how many tiny white sparks would you see, scattered across the land masses of the earth?

Click here to read this short story

Mental Illness And The Positives of Labeling by Denise Noe

When discussing my condition with mental health professionals, I often found myself frustrated and stymied.

What is wrong with me?” I would ask.

Very often, the answer was, “I don’t like to get into labeling.”

Repeatedly, I found people would say things like, “I don’t think labels mean much.”

Some people believed labels, at least as applied to mental disorders, were “unnecessarily confining.”

It seemed to me that the lack of a label left me in the lurch. For most of my life, people have been flummoxed by my behavior.

Click here to read Denise’s essay

Neurodivergency, Mastectomy by Jessica Goody

I survived the Holocaust of birth,

the poison palace of the womb.

One quadrant of my brain is blank, 

oxygen lost like air from a broken balloon.

In my mind’s eye, that hollow is dark, 

a clotted cave of scar tissue. Elsewhere, 

brain pathways are lit like switchboards, 

thoughts blinking like turn signals.

You can see the nerve-socket glow,

trace its trail from synapse to cell...

Click here to read Jessica’s poems

A Memory of Flowers by Sandra M. Odell

Benjamin picked at his ragged cuticles.

Did you ever read that book? That flowers book?”

Ellen found herself playing with her wedding band. She laced her fingers together and set her hands neatly on her lap.

Flowers for Algernon.”

They sat on a stone bench near the flower beds in the back garden. Stair steps of red and purple tulips caught sunlight in their petal cups. From somewhere near-by came the putter of a lawnmower, the laughter of children.

Yeah. I’m that Algernon guy.”

Every week Benjamin made the same observation, and every week Ellen’s heart broke a little more when she reminded him, “Algernon was the mouse. You’re thinking of Charlie.”

Click here to read Sandra’s short story

Many Nights in ’76 by Lee Todd Lacks

Had I been fully aware,

I surely might have crumbled,

but I was seven and resilient.

My frenetic mind deferred

the gravity of the loss,

transforming it

into a temporary fear…

Click here to read (and listen) to Lee Todd’s poem

Cisalpine Gaul by Mark Cornell

The morning sky is silver. A smoking white sun threatens to break through the clouds. Fog snakes around the top of the nearby giant mountains. Pine forests stretch down to the lake. A beam of sunlight trickles down a light blue patch of sky to thaw my cold hands. The lakes of Lombardy were formed in the Ice Age, carved out by vast glaciers as they flowed down from the Swiss Alps; Alps which tower over half of the sky.

Click here to read Mark’s story

The Raising of Lazarus by Ada Hoffmann

He thought himself blinded, at first,
until the grave-clothes tore away and his eyes
blinked cold and gritty in the noon light.
He could make out faces, which meant nothing
at first, not with the wailings of unpardoned souls
so fresh in his ears. He mumbled a greeting,
tried to understand why his sisters wept for joy
when he was dead, when all men were clay...

Click here to read Ada’s poem

Fishhook by Joanne Rixon

There's a gun. She likes its crisp, clear edges, the solid weight in her hand when she sits cross-legged on the bed in her dingy apartment. The room is dim at mid-day, because she's closed all the blinds to shut out the sky.

The bare lightbulb flickers. The other is burned out and she can't be bothered to fix it. The metal is warm on her palm as she dismembers the pistol, and it's still warm as she puts it back together.

Click here to read Joanne’s story

Will I Remember by Emily Hart

I set the alarm for sunrise minus ten
dress quickly in the clothes I laid out
on the chair the night before,
go down the stairs,
counting off the two flights,
knees stiff, reluctant
but obedient...

Click here to read Emily’s poem

Expanding and Contracting Worlds: A Review by Chris Kuell

I’m always looking for book suggestions, so when my friend told me that her book group loved the novel, Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, I made a mental note to check it out.

When she told me it was sorta-kinda a love story between a man in a wheelchair and his care-giver, I started to have second thoughts. I am definitely not a fan of contrived, heart-wrenching love stories (think anything by Nicholas Sparks) or fictional works written about characters who are disabled by authors who aren’t. Now—before I’m engulfed in hate mail, I fully understand that many fictional characters are conceived and even written quite well by authors who have never been a pedophile (Lolita) or cast a spell (Harry Potter) or cloned a dinosaur (Jurassic Park). However, I have read works where authors have ‘imagined’ what it must be like to be disabled (think pathetic and/or inspirational, because despite their blindness, they can tie their own shoes!! ) which made me cringe and choke back vomit.

Click here to read this review

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