Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Poetry of Chemo Brain

I would like to congratulate Elise Partridge whose poem, “Chemo Side Effects: Memory,” was just posted on former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s Poetry Forum website.
The work is from her book, Chameleon Hours, and deals with the difficulty of word retrieval after cancer treatment. Ironically, considering the subject matter, Elise finds the words to beautifully express what so many of us have gone through.
Here’s what Robert Pinsky says on his site about her poem:

“The contemporary poet Elise Partridge, in her book Chameleon Hours, has some observant poems about cancer treatment. I like the directness, clarity and understatement of these poems. Partridge scrupulously avoids playing for sympathy; but beyond that, in “Chemo Side Effects: Memory” she convinces me that her attention to memory loss is absorbing, rich in detail: a little like the fascination a birder or a nature poet communicates in rich textures of behavior.”

Elise has very kindly granted me permission to re-post her poem here. I hope you will find it meaningful. Thanks so much, Elise!

Chemo Side Effects: Memory 
by Elise Partridge

Where is the word I want?

in the thicket,
about to pinch the
berry, my fingerpads
close on

I can hear it
scrabbling like a squirrel
on the oak’s far side.

Word, please send over this black stretch of ocean
your singular flare,
your topaz in the mind’s blank.

I could always pull the gift
from the lucky-dip barrel,
scoop the right jewel
from my dragon’s trove….

Now I flail,
the wrong item creaks up
on the mental dumbwaiter.

No use --
it’s turning
out of sight,
a bicycle down a
Venetian alley --
I clatter after, only to find
gondolas bobbing in sunny silence,
a pigeon mumbling something
I just can’t catch.

1 comment:

  1. Elsie, your poem speaks beautifully to a frustrating part of life after chemo. So poignant and emotional. Thank you from a 9 year survivor who still has chemo brain.