By Rasha Abdulhadi
they won’t call it a stroke
because you are too young
but they’ll run the tests
anyway because you claim
there’s a worm in there
working away and also
you didn’t pass the
strength test, so
they have to take
some pictures, at
least you’ll have
an image, something
more than a dim sense
of lights going out all
over your mind, the tongue
tying over syllables when you
you can still remember swiftness
of speech and limb. it will take
you thirty minutes to make the
twelve minute walk to work,
and even then you’ll need
an escort and you’ll be
grateful for someone
to walk home with.
which no scan
or photograph or
examination can find,
but that you can track
like a worm’s trail from
the domed roof of your soft
palette to the base of your
skull where the atlas rests
badly, unevenly. you find
you have to rest every
afternoon to keep the
alien balloon behind
your brain from
you will sit and
will the twitch at
your temple to let go,
will the cords at the knape
of your neck to stop seizing,
will the tented cocoon of vessels
at the back of your throat to unknot.
Not by chance, you will have headaches
dizzy spells and nausea for six full
months before someone asks you to
track them and suddenly everyone
will know that you’ve been in
pain everyday even when you
didn’t say anything about
it because by god it was
still better than those
first two weeks after.
one of them will try
to prescribe you a
sedative, as an
even has the
come to see
appointment as a
a wrestling match
a master class in
diplomacy, your best
chance to practice the
new spy skills you’ve been
gaining- to get just the facts
you need and carefully frame your
own reports to guide their diagnoses.
you’ll stop taking the aspirin
because your mother has an
ulcer and because you feel
like you’re going to throw
up like there’s a new burn
in your famously fiery gut.
you’ll take the magnesium
and that’ll work, and suddenly it’s like the sun has come out.
suddenly the headaches go away, you aren’t dizzy anymore,
and you recognize the familiar face of possibility.
but the worm is still there, the friend who will not forgive,
and it knows your limits, it has given you new ones,
and it will not let you forget that you have been marked
by the thumbprint of a future death. the worm is patient.
you are tired of being a patient.
M and the Mountain
My friend fell up a mountain with many steps to the bottom
where there is a village, and perhaps some people living there.
but the climb down will be slow he is impatient,
and full of retreats. the drugs make him so, or more so.
To my friend’s bedside I come bearing slices of gladness
for the life in his limbs, come holding a mirror
so he can see anger as sign of the living animal.
My friend has slept through the last two weeks or so we thought.
In a voice dry from ventilator tube, dry from little water,
dried to the barest whisper, a long ellision of soft consonants,
he blows me a vision of fog, in which people resolve,
one voice declaring i will bisect the lateral come closer or recede
as he motionless in his mind swims, tossed
He remembers more than most of us.
My friend’s eyes look out from a cavern of 26 days
in a hospital bed – where his only food flows through a tube in his nose,
where his arms are blossoming burgundy pools that won’t move,
as his feet won’t move, as his legs won’t bend and he rages
against an inability to sit up because there are tubes
exiting his gut where the rest of a digestive system would be–
I invite my friend to patience on the hike down the mountain, holding
out soft things like compassion, a gentleness
with his body’s slow miracle return
and my friend turns the mountain upside down by barely speaking:
the trouble with being on the mountain is that you forget how long
you’ve been here, you forget who you are, you forget
that there’s something before or after or outside of this, and you can’t remember
whether you’re going crazy or getting better.
Lament of the TicToc Woman
I want to remain an animal
with the friable boundary
of this furred vessel unfortified
by machinery, even if
it saves my life to spend on
a few more years, even if
it attentuates the tail-end
of my passing from
this world of logbooks and clocks
into the welcoming grassy pelt of the earth.
I want to keep this body which makes life out of life,
not out of oil and spark.
spare me the heart that will not die,
whose hands glowing tell time
through the hours of hollow nights.
don’t pull my thread from a web
in which all living must be caught.
Rasha Abdulhadi grew up between Damascus and rural south Georgia and cut her teeth organizing on the southsides of Chicago and Atlanta. She is a cultural worker, educator, community technologist, and once and future farmer and beekeeper, as well as a member of Alternate ROOTS. Her work also appears at sinnerscreek.com, in Mizna, and a forthcoming anthology on Arab American Aesthetics, ed. by Therí Pickens Ph.D. (Twitter: @rashaabdulhadi)
Sami Holden earned an MFA in Screenwriting from UC-Riverside at Palm Desert and is the founder of The Tiny Tim Literary Review. Previously she was a dating advice columnist for The Good Men Project’s column - Dating in the Digital Age with Sami Holden as well as the press and social media editor for The Coachella Review. She wrote a blog for a number of years called Chronicles of Cheerful Clotter for HemAware Magazine, where she detailed her life with chronic health conditions. Sami is also an associate producer and press manager for the documentary Invisible: The Film, which focuses on individuals living with chronic pain and invisible illness. She has served on the Board of Directors for the National Hemophilia Foundation, spent time as a Senatorial intern, and was Miss Wisconsin for the ANTSO program. In addition, she has had articles published in Chronicality, Elephant Journal, The Glow (Australia), I.G. Living Magazine, The Manifest-Station, The Mighty, National Pain Report, Ravishly, and YourTango. Her interests include ukuleles and sloths. Find her @SamiDan19.