Monday, February 19, 2007

My Poetry: Mom

My friend Stewart has recently begun a disscusion about poetry on his site and mentioned a piece of free-verse I'd sent him, so I thought I might post it here to torment you all. I took a creative writing class to sharpen my prose and learn more about my craft and I've found that most of what we do is write poetry thus far. I like poetry, mostly about dead guys, but I'd like to expand my horizons since we publish poems in the magazine. The topic was health and disease, so I tried a form I haven't used before and took my mother's fight with cancer as my muse. As will become quite obvious, I still have issues.

The fallen angels and brimstone were replaced by orderlies and antiseptic but I knew where we were. The screaming and moaning gave it away. I cut up her French toast. She had scrambled eggs and bacon, orange juice, and a glass of milk. They said she was too well to stay in the hospital. They were moving her to a nursing home across the street. She would come back for radiation treatments. She could move her legs again. What do I want she asked. I started to make a joke, but then she began to tremble. Her face contorted terribly, her eyes rolled up; her limbs pulled in like a dying bug’s. I cried out and buzzed the nurses. She’d had her first seizure you see, because her brain was speckled with cancer like pepper on eggs. She caught pneumonia. The port in her chest through which she’d once received life-giving chemo was infected. She shut down. They said she must have aspirated some food into her lungs when she had her seizure. Fat grave worm tumors burrowed through her body again. I begged her not to leave. I told her she had to live so that, when I had kids, they would know how wonderful she was. Her organs shut down. She looked jaundiced, like a dull lemon, as toxins built up. I signed off on a request to take her off the machines keeping her body alive. It took twenty-two minutes for her to strangle to death on the fluids in her lungs. I held her hand the whole time and died with her.


Lucas Pederson said...

Great to see you back!
This is sad. Very sad. Great poem, though. Man! I can't get it out of my head. It was so emotional, so sorrowful. Powerful. Have you published any of your poems yet? You should give it a whirl, because, wow, very good stuff. I had to hold back tears, to tell you the truth. It makes me think about my mother, and how it will feel when she eventually passes on. I'm so sorry for your loss, man.
And...come back, come're still alive my friend.

Christina said...

"It took twenty-two minutes for her to strangle to death on the fluids in her lungs. I held her hand the whole time and died with her."

That is such a powerful last line and so true. I like your poem, are you going to publish it?

Chuck Zaglanis said...

Thanks Lucas and Christina, I'm very glad you liked the poem. It was very cathartic to write, like my "Living With Cancer" story.

I was actually thinking about working on the cadence for this one and shopping it around. I'd probably have to take it off the blog though.

It's so personal, I'll probably leave it here and write something new; Cthulhu knows I have enough angst, rage, and shame for a poetry collection. hehe

Vwriter said...

Morning Chuck!

I'm glad to see that you're a responsible blogger, since I am not. Soon Stewart will convert all to join the folds of blogomania!

Anyway, although I've mentioned this to you earlier, I am most impressed with the imagery of your poem. This section was particularly vivid:

"...her limbs pulled in like a dying bug’s. I cried out and buzzed the nurses. She’d had her first seizure you see, because her brain was speckled with cancer like pepper on eggs."

This is muscular writing, and it is easy to feel the flex.

Also, this word picture:

"She looked jaundiced, like a dull lemon..."

brought the imagery to life with such power that I could actually visualize her skin.

Marvelously done.

Here's a point to consider- two senses are missing from this poem. They are olfactory and kinesthetic. Having spent some time in the hospital with dying parents and relatives, I will share with you that one of the most difficult aspects of the matter for me involved the overpowering odors in the room. You mention antiseptic early on, but it's clear that your imagery in the main does not include the smell of antiseptic. There are, in fact, no references to smell in the work. Sometimes that is because the real power that links us to the event of dying and death is the odor. Smells of decay are not something we consciously wish to associate with our loved ones. I wondered while reading this work again whether you left out the sense of smell because of the level of pain that it would bring back. Sometimes smell is just passed over when describing a scene because visual imagery is more highly prized, but I think in this case that if you included olfactory imagery that the result would be an amplified sense of reality for the reader. Also, remember that 80% of smell is actually the sense of taste, so by including the sense of smell, it provides a small window to include the the sense of taste by fiat. Two senses for the price of one. For example, "the taste of fear was in the air." Odors have a taste.

Also, kinesthetics are missing from the poem as well. Like the sense of smell, the sense of touch is more immediate and personal for us, and if that is why you left it out- consciously or subconsciously- then so be it. I'm just pointing it out to see if it seems usable to you. But what is more intimate than the sense of touch for conveing immediacy and personal involvement? What could pull us closer to this event that adding those two senses?

If these two senses- smell and touch- are so immediate to us, imagine they effect that they will have on the reader?

Anyway, smell and touch are two more venues for you to work your imagery magic. The poem touched me on a personal level having lived through the hospital deaths of both my sister and my father. I hope the comments help you more fully express the imagery associated with your own grief.

Hang tough, brother.

Chuck Zaglanis said...

Thank you Rick, that was a very astute observation. When my father had his first "Episode" with his heart and had to have stents put in, I remember them wheeling him out and he had this stench oozing off of him. It smelled like death to me and I couldn't help but cry because it really drove home how close I was to losing him. Of the whole incident, I remember that smell the best.

Stewart Sternberg said...

This is a great's a kick in the teeth. It's real. It's brutal. It hurts to read it. Painful in its intimacy.

Thanks for sharing it. Where would you shop this around to? There are several online mags that might be interested.

Chuck Zaglanis said...

I haven't given possible venues any thought really, I haven't tried to write a poem since my angsty days as a troubled youth.

I read this to my class today and my voice broke a few times. Sharing it was like reliving it. There was silence when I was done. People dryed their eyes. I was stunned at the effect the thing had.

William Jones said...

What is impressive is that I happen to know that confronts poetry head-on -- he thinks himself not a poet, yet I've read a number of his poems that suggest otherwise. I'll not use that cliched expression about poets and self-awareness.

As for markets, consider some literary reviews and university presses, Chuck. There are plenty out there.

Jon said...

When Stewart starts talking about poetry, prepare to duck. But Stewart notwithstanding, it was a fine piece of writing.
Come to think of it, it seems to combine some elements of both Utopian and Dystopian moods.

Chuck Zaglanis said...

William: I've got my beret all ready to go.

Jon: Thank you for your kind words, I'm glad you liked it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Powerful words and imagery. I liked this a lot. I'm sorry to hear about your mother.

Chuck Zaglanis said...

Thank you Charles, I'm glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

You know. I've read this before. Many times in fact. But I don't know that I've ever truly realized how powerful it was.
Perhaps it's because I'm fresh from writing, and trying to think of things in a writer's perspective. Perhaps it's because I'm going through slightly hard times myself right now.
Or maybe it's because I just stopped, and read it aloud to myself, allowed the words to truly seep in.

It's powerful, and meaningful, and truly shows that pure, unadulterated emotion is the true source of inspiration.
I hope that I can never write anything so meaningful, for it would mean that I would be forced to live through such hard times.

Know always that I respect, and admire you my friend.

The cultish tones of my comments may be ridiculous, but, in truth, it is you I look up to, and aspire to be.

I don't really know if you check your older posts very often. But I hope that, the next time you do, this will cheer you up slightly. To know that at least one person admires you to the point of emulation.

Feel free to allow this, or discard this as you wish. The message was meant mostly for you.

Many hopes for a bright future,


Charles P. Zaglanis said...

Will, that was one of he nicest things anyone's said to me in a long time. Thank you.