Sick …. in poetry form

29 Mar

Guest post from Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick, meningitis survivor, who used her writing skills as an MFA to express her feelings as she fought meningitis




Under her hair, there’s a permanent shadow

of God’s finger on her spine.



Hey, Haddy Handrigan,

welcome to this amusement park called my brain.

A lady in a chair is sinking into her stomach

until all that’s left is her coat and some curls

ripped out on the way down.


I have a headache just thinking about it.


Haddy Handrigan, I can’t turn my body.

Talk to me.



The eye in the jukebox sees every choice.

It’s not her reflection. There really is a giant eye

made of marshmallows and rain,

living in a marvelous sphere of absurdity.


Peering out into night and skyscrapers,

two iridescent dandelion puffs float by.

The clouds are suddenly pink,

the vase is empty, there is something in her eye,

and the moon is melting again, upwards.



Oh, Haddy Handrigan, I had to turn out my own light at night.

I had to sit alone when the hours were over and listen to your song.

I couldn’t lock the door.

I couldn’t say stop to



5 a.m.         she wakes me up             graham crackers             orange juice

another pill that won’t make it go away                  a needle in the bag

“… my head hurts …”

cheap perfume          pat on the arm          “… take your blood!”


5 a.m.         graham crackers                 orange juice

a needle in the bag         three in the little cup

“… my head hurts …”

cheap perfume              tsk of the tongue               “… take your blood!”


5 a.m.         crackers                 juice

breathing                      making sure of breathing

“… my head hurts …”

can’t roll on that arm         breath           “… there you go, honey …”


5 a.m.         crackers                 juice

my head                        hurts



I wanted to say goodnight and mean it until 8 a.m.

I was in another land, Haddy Handrigan.

No blue reflections. I even forgot

all the blue I used to know.

I wondered if I’d get anywhere,

to a sitting position for more than thirty minutes.


I was walking the tightrope

that tied their mouth masks around their heads.

Just talk to me, please, Haddy Handrigan.

I’m tired of hearing your song.



There is fluid in her head, but not so fluid it lets her move.

They tapped her, but didn’t let her see.

She’s wearing glasses, but is almost blind,

constant tremors waving over her eyes.



I decided to breathe in private

and bend my elbow with nothing inside.

The neon springs in the ceiling

sucked up the smell.


I felt them rip out some pages.

I pretended I didn’t care

if the whole spine disintegrated.


Come here, Haddy Handrigan.

Tell me what I’ve missed.



Her hands grow older.

She can see a hundred miles in front of her

but won’t see the hallway until the sixth day.

They won’t let her leave until she walks.



4 Responses to “Sick …. in poetry form”

  1. Lynn March 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    What a beautifully, poignant, way to share what you went through. You are so lucky to have survived this awful disease, and to take your writing strengths to beat down this enemy. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Elizabeth March 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    Writing was one of the few ways I could work through this terrifying and bizarre time in my life. Thank you for posting.

  3. suegreene March 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Your words are so moving and powerful. I can see and hear the hospital sounds and feel the despair. Thank you for sharing on this website.

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