Sunday, March 27, 2011

A poem

Inspired in part by the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and in part by Sarah Kay's TED speech, I've written a poem:


The 1950s
an era when human experimentation
was a regular occurrence, without
their knowledge or consent.
an era when doctors so focused
on helping humanity that, often,
individual patients didn't matter.
and a woman was lost.

but the story is really that
her children never knew
- such things weren't discussed.

in a family that slept, ate, grew, bathed, learned,
loved, laughed, cried in numbers in spaces
smaller than this,
no one talked about sickness
no one tole the children they had
a sister who had been institutionalized
no one told them a thing about
their mother - she was gone

Years later, as society realized she mattered,
the family pieced the story

And I think about my own family. My
mother and her generation were raised
much the same.
- you don't talk about this

My mother's mother died when Mom
was a young teen.
I was in college when I learned
it was cervical cancer.
When I first heard stories of
the illness.
How she got so sick, young Mom
had to drive her to chemo.

And we still have work to do.
I do not know enough.
I do not know what kind of
person she was.

But Mom sees in our lives the value of
these stories.
And soon we will sit down and share.
And my grandmother - who I've
never know as grandmother -
will become a living, breathing
story in my collection.

That defines me.

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