Your Mind Tricks Won’t Work on Me, Jedi
There’s a kind of music
often played by the sort of therapists
who think EMDR is a panacea for everything
or by the sorts of “doctors”
who think sticking needles into you
while you consume 5lbs of raw broccoli
will cure cancer.
Slow, beatless, meandering treble
just on the mass-produced side
The kind of music some executive
with a bottom line hanging over his head
engineered from a formula
of a thousand songs
someone called “calming” once.
A cacophonic story telling the sick
and the dying that
“everything’s going to be fine”
Every time I’ve been admitted to an ER
I stare in terror
at the curtains in the trauma rooms
usually some sort of pastel gradient
just on the institutional side of
faded towards beige
from the industrial sorts of detergent
needed to turn a biohazard
back into a privacy screen
yellowed from iodine and vein rust
The kind of durable, stain-hiding pattern
some executive, with a bottom line hanging over his head
engineered from a thousand surveys
distilling down the 5 or 6 colours
people call “calming”.
Rows of visible barriers
between the sick or dying
and the world
of “everything’s going to be fine”.
A story whose moral is only denial.
But the oldest fairy tales,
don’t have happy endings.
Once upon a time,
you will die.
When you die, you will be alone.
Even if you are surrounded by loved ones,
or the arms of a person you’ll call your soulmate
until the very moment you start to fade,
and start to doubt whether souls even exist.
Even if someone dies right next to you at the very same second,
in a car crash,
or an explosion, or holding your hand,
you will still go through death alone.
Alone and dying will be the last things you ever are.
And for so many people
are the last image
they’ll ever see.
Swinging softly in the bustle
As calming music plays over a p.a.
In a hospital with a bottom line hanging over its head,
as someone whispers in their ear,
“everything is going to be fine”
Shanna Alden (they/them) is a queer poet, photographer, barista, and bartender living in Seattle, WA with their chosen family and a couple very soft cats. They sit on the board of Rain City Poetry Slam and consistently host weekly poetry shows.
Erin Schick (they/them) is a queer, trans, and multiply disabled social worker living in upstate New York and focused on disability justice and queer liberation. Their interests include the Pacific Northwest, women’s soccer, and sled dogs.
Find this poem and many others in SwEP’s latest release: A Duet of Dying
“A Duet of Dying is a poignant and honest approach to surviving terminal sickness, living disabled, and the constant navigation of the healthcare system of the United States. From honest confessions like remaining with somebody caught cheating “Because I was on his health insurance,” in Why Did You Stay? part 3, to the foreign and familiar feeling of not knowing yourself apart from the “alien” in Pathogen, this collection is a special one for its approach through — and more aptly: with — sickness. Then there is the raw cruelty that is given a voice so aptly in Ringtones into Dirges; here, at last, are words for the battle with collections calls for MRIs and diagnostic tests; those which are necessary to life, but the collected debt of which could easily drive somebody to death. And I think, finally, finally, here is an honest testament — of love, of life (while actively dying), of death (and still living). And wonderfully, a narrative from two powerful queer voices, who offer this bittersweet collection, so purely.”
~Reviewed by Maxine Peseke
As always, we encourage ordering the collection from the authors personally or through an independent bookstore, but the collection is also available through Amazon and other distributors.