This poem describes how I felt when I was paralyzed with measles encephalitis at the age of 6 going on 7. I could neither walk nor speak intelligibly. My arms and fingers were contracted. This time was very frightening. I went into a coma for a period of time. Though I awoke able to speak, I was still unable to walk, facing life in wheelchair since I was told there was no hope. I was only able to watch others play outside. Lonely, vulnerable, and scared, I made a conscious decision to walk again. I taught myself while my parents were out of town at the time. This poem describes my inner world and decision to heal. This picture is of me around that age.
My body was a cage
With only eyes for doors.
My arms, contorted,
Like branches twisted in shadows.
Voices, hollow sounds,
Called from the dinner table, but
My legs, dead trunks,
Held me to a bed
With a view to other children.
How they danced,
Like pansies and violets,
Their blooms outstretched,
Gathering rays for Grace
But not for the night of storm
Clashing in my bones.
My lips held back the truth.
My cries were muffled in my throat.
Each wail, the language of stones
Falling on deaf ears.
Mother spoke the tunes of clouds.
Her words carried her young to the stars,
Not to the dead rocks lining
The bed of flowers
That could be me.
Rocks and earth held down
This young one with muted cries.
I’m still here.
Don’t forget the light inside this bud
Afflicted with blight.
How I want to burst out of
This stiff casing
To stretch my arms and fingers
Like tiny leaves unfolding in dawn.
I am stuck in mud,
Too dense for birth;
Too turbid for food.
No gardener is churning the soil
To give me air.
I was buried under new blooms
Dressed in violet and pink swaddling,
Dancing on my grave and beckoning,
“Come and play; the day is divine.”
And so, I clawed my way
Out of the stiff core,
Muck and stone,
And peered into light
Blinding my infant eyes.
My arms and fingers unfolded
Into new green.
My tiny legs stretched into roots
Holding my core as it danced
In breezes carrying buoyant rays
Like waves hitting my face.
Is birth a choice?
Or is Spirit’s breath
Irascible in creation?
Can a flower remain a seed forever?
Or does it cast its casing aside
In a mighty battle
To forage life.
The seed knows Choice;
Its soul has Will.
For some, the earth’s bed is always home.
For this one, hope was not a loss.
Copyright © 2018/02/10 Barbara Harris Leonhard @extraordinarysunshineweaver.blog
Please see my prose post on measles encephalitis for my memoir of that time. https://extraordinarysunshineweaver.blog/2018/02/06/measles-encephalitis-a-story-of-self-healing/
Image: “Life Has Its Way” digital art ©Martha Harris. See Martha’s Artistic Flarings @artisticflarings.blog