Surrender

Some nights the pain would come on in slow, gradual waves, waking me bit by bit until stillness was impossible. The body would by then need an outlet for the intensity of the pain, sometimes that meant curling up and rubbing my feet together, sometimes laying flat and shaking a leg repetitiously, eventually it meant needing to vocalize, to make small sounds, little pain mantras. These movements and sounds were the body’s necessary pressure valves and because they would wake my husband, who slept next to me and needed to go to work in the morning, I would slip from the bed deftly, pulling the bedroom door closed behind me, making the sofa my pain altar for the night. Continue reading

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Virginia Ophelia

In early 1999, I moved to New York City with intentions of living the poet life, while I had gotten a day job as an administrative assistant at a large nonprofit. The office was on Fifth Avenue a block from Union Square, my bosses were kind, the staff was diverse. Our receptionist was a Haitian immigrant; she went to mass during her lunch break. She had a beautiful smile I captured with a Polaroid camera.

I was a bit of a hot mess back then, partying several nights of the week, barely making it to work on time, keeping myself alive with type 1 diabetes. At 25 years old I’d had type 1 for twelve years. Often I’d sneak away to the utility closet during the work day, lock the door from the inside and slunk down the wall next to the wheeled yellow bucket and mop, just to take a 10-15 minute nap. Continue reading

A January Afternoon

She wonders about the sun. Coming in the front window in a blast of glory every cloudless afternoon. Whether 27 degrees or 97, it is there warming with its generative touch. Two hands rubbing together excitedly for more lifetimes than humans can count. Our blazing star gets one suntime, which includes one sundying. Human time is made by this same heat pulse. Yes, she thinks, our blazing star. Continue reading

New Year

She’s reading the poetry of Mary Oliver. She and her mother gave each other the same book of poems for Christmas. Now it’s a new year. She likes beginnings. Pliant with potential, plump with promise.

She thinks back to her thirties and how ardently she believed in the future. Continue reading

A Monster and A Miracle

BOOK REVIEW: VIRGINIA WOOLF’S “ON BEING ILL”

A first iteration of this essay appeared in T.S. Eliot’s publication, New Criterion, in 1926. The most recent printing of On Being Ill (Paris Press, 2002) is based on the version that Woolf’s own Hogarth Press published in 1930. Woolf wrote it during a months-long bout of illness in 1925, the same year Mrs. Dalloway had been released. She struggled with chronic illness as various nebulous symptoms throughout her lifetime, symptoms that might be diagnosed more specifically today. The essay is about many things, illness being the main thread, while the crux of it can be summed up in the very important question Woolf asks:

Why hasn’t illness “taken its place with love and battle and jealously among the prime themes of literature”? (4) Continue reading

The New York Journals, An Excerpt: Part Three

November 23 – December 27, 2001

Here are the musings of a young aspiring poet in New York City in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, living with type 1 diabetes since childhood, navigating an ended relationship, trying to become a healthy adult. These are the words of a twenty-seven year old woman who was all that and so many other things. The journal excerpt in three parts spans November 6 to December 27, 2001 in Virginia, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. I’ve edited only lightly, to reduce repetition and fixation, and I’ve added notations in brackets where they are helpful. (Anything in parentheses was written in the journal that way.) Regarding the constant reference to angel cards: On Christoper Street I had purchased inch-size cards with a self-reflective word on each, placed them in a bowl, and pulled one card each day.

[Click here to read Part One] [Click here to read Part Two]

Fri. Nov. 23

This morning I’m up early, drowning the plants it seems. It’s cloudy today, like my head. I have to work Bloomingdale’s at noon, which is close to hell. It will suck my energy dry I think, and today I’m on reserve anyway. Continue reading

The New York Journals, An Excerpt: Part Two

November 13 – November 22, 2001

Here are the musings of a young aspiring poet in New York City in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, living with type 1 diabetes since childhood, navigating an ended relationship, trying to become a healthy adult. These are the words of a twenty-seven year old woman who was all that and so many other things. The journal excerpt in three parts spans November 6 to December 27, 2001 in Virginia, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. I’ve edited only lightly, to reduce repetition and fixation, and I’ve added notations in brackets where they are helpful. (Anything in parentheses was written in the journal that way.) Regarding the constant reference to angel cards: On Christoper Street I had purchased inch-size cards with a self-reflective word on each, placed them in a bowl, and pulled one card each day.

[Click here to read Part One]

Tues. Nov. 13

I’m at K’s waiting for the cable guy. Sure is a gorgeous morning too… No dreams last night. I’ve been waking up before my alarm but on the hour or half hour before, sort of odd I feel. I feel, I feel. X returned my call last night. Continue reading

A December Lunch Date

She is having lunch with a colleague on a chilly day, violet-grey sky hovering over the street outside. He is asking lots of questions. Do you have to watch your diet? Yes she says, pointing to his plate of french fries, That is my nightmare. Do you have to check your blood sugar? Yes, she replies, swelling with gratitude that someone is interested in the whole her, including this invisible and massive thing that is her world’s rotation. She pulls out her continuous glucose monitor, shows him the screen where the dots snake up and down with a blood sugar reading every five minutes. This technology has changed her life. She tells him this, certain he is getting the gravity of the situation. Until he asks, So, do you take insulin?  Continue reading

Ides of December

She is slipping back down the hill. It’s this kidney thing. It wasn’t supposed to happen to her. She wants them to send her to a nephrologist sooner than waiting. She wants them to say the words: stage one kidney disease. Then it will be said aloud and she will snatch it out of the air in her fist and make a home for the words in the days she lives ahead. Continue reading