Friday, March 29, 2013


Necessity may be the mother of invention, but doubt is the agent of change.
~Laura Shovan, Little Patuxent Review

I like to bring books and magazines with me to doctor's offices. Recently, I brought the latest issue of Little Patuxent Review and found myself folding down the corners of an excessive number of pages. There were so many that I wanted to re-read and savor! The issue features a poem by Poetry Friday regular Irene Latham, and I would encourage other Poetry Fridayers to submit their work. The next open reading period is from 8/1/13 to 11/1/13, and the theme is Science.

Some of my Doubt favorites were Escape, Danish Modern, Standing in the Air, On The Road to Human Rights Day, Come to me says the earth, and Japan 2011. Also, this poem by Elisabeth Dahl, who kindly gave me permission to share it here:

by Elisabeth Dahl

Was it art or accident
That led the hospital's head nuns
To tuck the failure-to-thrive babies
Into a corner of the seventh floor
Beside the eating disorder unit?

Three of us padded down to that corner once,
Teenagers in double-hung hospital gowns and
Standard-issue slippers squashed at the heel.
It was Christmas night, past visiting hours.
Midway down the corridor, a gilt-framed Madonna,
Ample in blue, swaddled the child who reached for her.

The hallway light spilled in behind us.
It lit the crib slats and the hard, taut sheets.
Fluorescent and cold -- unholy --
It was white-turned-blue, like skim milk
Or veins on the inside of a wrist.
It didn't wake the babies.

Later, we settled back into our beds,
Tucking the thin blankets over our shoulders,
Curling our knees to our small, dry breasts,
Keeping our gifts to ourselves.
We each ran the day's numbers privately,
Counting calories rather than sheep.

Days before I left, the art therapist
Asked us to draw ourselves as animals.
In sure, waxy strokes of crayon,
I drew a solid, forward-facing lion,
All head, with a mane that reached the paper's edge:
I was wiser now, nearly thriving.

Kelly, 12 years old and new to the unit,
Sat beside me, working on a blank page.
Or so it seemed. Leaning in,
I saw a pink bird in faint colored pencil
At the very center of the white white page,
One wing raised slightly, as if in apology.


Elisabeth Dahl's first book, a middle-grade novel, is due out April 2. It's called Genie Wishes.

Mary Lee has the Poetry Friday round-up at A Year of Reading.

P.S. Savvy Verse & Wit is looking for more poetry month bloggers.


Heidi Mordhorst said...

Oh. That is...oh. Yes, to come back to, to receive and rethink and reenter.

Thanks to Elizabeth for sharing and to you for posting, Tabatha. (For some reason I don't get LPR; must address.)

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Beautiful and stunning poem...thanks for sharing! And thank you also for reminding me of the LPR - I had wanted to learn more about it after reading one of Laura's posts a couple months back and it slipped my mind!

Elisabeth Dahl said...

Many thanks for posting this, Tabatha. It's lovely to see it on your site.

Ilse Munro said...

Thanks for your comments on LPR,Tabatha. Since you liked Danish Modern, you might like to read "First and Foremost: Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson" on our blog. And take a look at some of our other posts. Ilse Munro, Online Editor, Little Patuxent Review.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Wow. As a middle school teacher I see more young girls that struggle with this than I ever thought I would...this poem speaks to those feelings of helplessness and lack of self worth.

Linda B said...

I'm sorry that we need to think hard about this issue in the adolescents. Like Tara, I had more than one young student involved, & I really only knew because one of their friends told me. A powerful poem that I wonder what an adolescent would take from it. I found the book trailer for Genie Wishes-looks fun, Tabatha. Thank you for so many good links today.

Author Amok said...

Tabatha, thank you for sharing Elisabeth's poem and your love of LPR. Although this poem wasn't necessarily written for teens, it provides a safe jumping off point for a discussion about eating disorders. I hope some of your readers are able to use them poem in their classrooms.


jama said...

Such a thought provoking, poignant poem. Thanks for the introduction to Elizabeth's work and the reminder to check out LPR.

Tabatha said...

I didn't start this blog until 2010, but waaay back in 1996, I was the editor of a site that featured interviews with women in a wide variety of fields. The piece that inspired the most emails was about anorexia. People were longing for help.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

This is so inspiring. So much to ponder and explore in that poem. And LPR to explore (and submit to?) Thanks so much!

Ruth said...

"Counting calories rather than sheep." What an image!

Joyce Ray said...

So powerful, Tabatha. Even the description of the hallway light like skim milk and blue veins carries through the image of malnourishment. Thanks for sharing this poem and the encouragement to look up LPR.

Bridget Magee said...

Very powerful poem, Tabatha! I am going to look for Elisabeth's novel, too. Thanks for sharing. =)