Solstice pilgrim

This, then, is her solstice pilgrimage,
this six monthly walk, down this too long corridor,
ticking off letters, – M is for Women’s Health,
P is for Medical Photography
Q is for X-ray and Imaging.

She’s here in the long days of summer,
when the windows are open in this small room,
letting in voices and slow moving air,

and again in the short dark winter days
when there’s not enough light to spare,
not enough warmth to go around –

stripped of power, clothing, efficacy –
she has a name-tag in her bag, out there
she’s someone, here she repeats her name,
address, date of birth at each desk –

Open Sesame

– and she’s touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands,
that press and smooth her skin,
searching for the death that bubbles under it.

 

And there you go – Day 26 of Jilly’s 28 days of unreason challenge. I’m going to make a confession now: I haven’t read any Jim Harrison apart from the quotations put up here. I will, but I wanted to do this challenge without any preconceptions about his work, and just take each quotation on its own terms. It’s been a great series of prompts. I can’t believe we only have two to go. 

And here’s the quotation:

“There is a human wildness held beneath the skin that finds all barriers brutishly unbearable”   from Songs of Unreason

 

I’m also linking it up to tonight’s dVerse prompt – opposites attract, posted by Lillian. She asks us to write a poem including some opposites as contrasts. I’ve used the two solstices here.

18 thoughts on “Solstice pilgrim

  1. Your poem is very poignant. You make such a clever equation between the solstices and the vital hospital checks, with the implication that life slows almost to a halt. I like the sudden contrast of the kind hands in the midst of the impersonal hospital. And the word ‘bubble’ is desperately sinister.

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  2. first and foremost you have brought the true meaning of solstice to both seasons – “when there’s not enough light to spare,
    not enough warmth to go around –”
    gorgeous lines

    I loved the whole walk of this hospital pilgrimage and the lead up to the soft grim death-like lines at the end

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  3. This is eerie, haunting and beautiful at the same time. A lonely walk such as this one should never be a solo walk. The switch from’ touched gently.. to the death that bubbles…’ – now that took my breath away.

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  4. When I read your piece, it felt like the woman walking down the hall in the hospital was disconnected in some way to what was happening to her. It feels like she’s resigned and yet peaceful, if that makes any sense. Your last stanza brought tears to my eyes — very powerful writing!

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  5. Oh….this is haunting and makes me think of a family member who bravely fought triple negative breast cancer. This woman in your post….she has a name outside these hospital corridors…perhaps she is a mother, an aunt, a wife, surely a daughter; perhaps with a career and a warm home. Yet here she is, twice each year at the solstice, name badge behind…perhaps in a short too-open-in-the-back generic thin hospital gown, perhaps on an examining table again, being prodded. Is the cancer there? Has the insidious bubble of death returned, spread? This is a sinister walk that far too many women make, over and over again. I am glad you have her being “touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands.”
    May we somehow eradicate breast cancer, cervical cancer…all disease. You’ve hit hard here and any woman who has faced this, or has a loved one who has faced this, will identify with your beautiful and sensitive writing. Thank you for posting.

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  6. I was thinking, were you writing about my pilgrimage to the clinics and doctor’s offices. Because this is what I do, check ups due to my family health history ~ Love the images captured at each season and that final line, death awaiting underneath ~

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  7. I love the way you’ve structured your poem around the two solstices and set a time line for the scary, lonely pilgrimage down the ‘too long corridor’ – and you don’t mention how she feels because you show it in the antithesis of summer and winter, and that bag with her name in it, The line that really touched me is:
    ‘searching for the death that bubbles under it’.

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  8. These lines shatter me:
    “and she’s touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands,
    that press and smooth her skin,
    searching for the death that bubbles under it.”

    What can I say, Sarah? Thank you for the small heart attack your poem just gave me!

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  9. ooohhh… What can one answer to such a poem? There is no answer to such a poem but to be still and count the letters and the days and the long cool breaths in winter. life take a hiatus, for the twice yearly checks. the death bubbling under the skin is a vividly universal image that slips with quiet sharpness straight to our mortal hearts, and thus it is so widely commented on. I agree with Laura though, that your description of the soulstices is the first and foremost center of your poem. Since she quoted winter, I will mark the following as the rhythm and feel of summer waiting just outside the wall of the castle:

    “when the windows are open in this small room,
    letting in voices and slow moving air,”

    Perfect Sarah, just Perfect.

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  10. kaykuala

    and she’s touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands,
    that press and smooth her skin,

    It is a long walk. In a hospital it can be a picture of pain and suffering. At least she is well taken care of ‘touched gently, probed by soft, kind hands’

    Hank

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