Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Self Portrait in Red and White


I was just out of the hospital. It was snowing,
and my spirit was leading my body around
like an old dog
on a long leash.

Nurses are funny creatures, kissing the glass
of the locked cabinet as if it held a month in the country
where fountains flow patients
to the bathroom by themselves.

As a child, I lay in the snow sideways to the sky
and believed I would always have a place to go,
full of tomato soup 
and rag rugs for the floors.

That day, though, I was just out of the hospital
and been beaten up besides, for the fun of it
by someone younger
with healthy fists.

Bent like a damaged tree with red leaves,
I fell into a cab and got the stink eye from
a driver concerned 
about his upholstery.

At the hotel, in my sixth floor room, I kissed
the mirror above the sink. It was cold and smooth
with always that little
gap denying contact. 

With my prescription lost, real pain embraced me,
saying, write about the red of the blood and the white
of the weather,
the gray of cement and concussion.

I wrote the red of a fire welcomed by wood, a white bird
on a black branch outside the window from a warm bed
and a day that ended
years ago where I mended, more or less,

I still have that poem, a good one, full of the best of me,
a beautiful thing
still whole and fine
and standing on its own
when all the rest has gone.

for Desperate Beauty at Desperate Poets. 


  1. Soup cans of that gooey van Gogh gules, incarnadine splashes of history and misery. But the palette is actually "the red of the blood and the white / of the weather, / the gray of cement and concussion." The poem of that, remembered here, stands "whole and fine" against both time and the fine. And is desperately true.

  2. The beauty of this poem leaves me speechless. I felt every line.

  3. "and my spirit was leading my body around
    like an old dog
    on a long leash."
    These lines alone would be enough to make this poem great, but there is so much more in it. A poem that still hurts...JIM

  4. You rock the language and you rock the soul, Shay. Deep and expansive in its reach, you make us understand and yearn for the healing that true art promises.

  5. Out of pain and loss and the vulnerability of being wounded you make a beauty that shines and sustains, that stares defiantly into the face of time and what made it to say things are always more/other than what they seem. I am very much taken by the way you've constructed your stanzas, so seemingly simple and declarative but actually very carefully formed and structured so that the final lines emphasize the message in each. To say this is brilliant writing seems very pat, but it is, and you once again send the bar hurtling out into the depths of the space-time continuum. Delicate, but not fragile, profoundly true but not puffed up with it, just a beautiful piece, Shay.

  6. The desperate beauty of your pain and your mending sears through your words. Such a powerful poem.

  7. Through the desperation there is a bit of warmth in the tomato soup...hoping that the soup can ease the pain in some way. Write about the red and white and you certainly did a wondrous job of writing ` so much pain in this one - Truedessa

  8. This poem both breaks my heart and makes me want to cheer. Side note: I love tomato soup.

  9. And, I forgot to say, this poem is also whole and fine!

  10. your poetry never ceases to amaze me, Shay. tender without being coy or maudlin, piercing, clear-eyed. superb ~


Spirit, what do you wish to tell us?