MRI: Follow Up by Natalie E. Illum
The jewelry I knew
to remove in advance. The crutches
too reactive to enter. Better to bring
the stretcher out here. I agree, allow
myself to be shifted into position, anchored
so that my head is caged. I agree, though
nurses and elderly patients stroll by, barely
blink at my exposure, the struggle
to find a center on narrow slab
under fluorescents so that magnets
can resonate at the center of me. Accurately
capture the imbalanced neurons,
the dried flowers of ancient hematomas, the bright
Rorschach of a new bleed. Something's pressing
harder than time inside my joints and synapses. Migraines
or movement, the speed makes me vomit, or turns
my eyes upward until
the blushing sky at dawn is a relief.
The pattern repeats
like a heart murmur, too often.
I make this appointment, stumble in
to let the ions, the radio waves reveal,
what I cannot. Nobody warned me
at birth or now, about a noise
so loud, a random firing
abstract enough to make
my marrow quake, my muscles flip.
An alien Morse code I cannot
anticipate or escape.
Wallflowers won't survive
inside MRI machines, the round suction
of a sonic boom that brings
my disability to its knees, renders
me beyond shaken; so I give into
the deepest static I have ever known.
Suddenly, it's easy to find
my pulse again, open my lungs.
I'm too scared to scream, too scarred
to uncover the irony, but I manage
a smile, a deep breath, and I can't help
but think of you as I connect with
my diaphragm, hear the cadence
of my heart. I imagine it whole
again, flashed clean. I can see
the tree of life at the base of my skull
preparing for spring. Showing me,
regardless of test results, or shadow tumors;
this cycle is not over.
For a minute, I believe in miracles.
I take in the noise of this life machine
and I see myself walking out of here,
free of the crutches and staples
that vibrate as I tremor through
the loudest 25 minutes of my life.
And when it's over,
the swollen silence confirms
that I still want you on the other side
of that door that says "caution."
I want to do handstands that breach
physics and childhood. And yes,
I'm asking these sound waves
for what could be impossible: to reach you
in ways I may never be able; to permeate
what divides us. And I won't apologize
if the hydrogen bonds weaken, if the reaction
is terminal. Biology and healing
teach me to love myself more than
the possibility of failure. I know
I love you completely, as absolutely
as I am embedded in this moment -
cells and images flashing.
Natalie E. Illum is an activist, writer and federal employee. She also has an MFA in creative writing from American University and teaches poetry workshops in a variety of community venues.
Her work is also included in Growing Up Girl (GirlChild Press, 2006) and Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders of the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press, 2007). She has been featured in the online literary journal LOCUSPOINT and in if poetry. She recently finished collaborating with LAVA, an acrobatic troupe in Brooklyn, and perfected her skills at performing poetry upside down. Her previous self-published chapbooks Counterbalance and On Writers Block and Acrobats are available on Lulu Press.
She hopes to complete her memoir Spastic as soon as she has enough courage to write something longer than a page and a half.