Breath & Shadow
Volume 13, Issue 2
"Expanding and Contracting Worlds: A Review"
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.
"Will I Remember"
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
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.
"THE RAISING OF LAZARUS"
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.
What was joy? His flesh, perhaps, looked whole,
but it seethed underneath,
waiting to rot from the bones and return
to its sleep. He shambled
forward, tried to speak, and only moaned...
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.
"Many Nights in '76"
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,
into a temporary fear
of poisoning by osmosis.
"A Memory of Flowers"
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.”
"Neurodivergency" and "Mastectomy"
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...
"Mental Illness and the Positives of Labeling"
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.”
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.
"Mutability" and "New Mexico"
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?
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...