Two Poems by Macklin Smith
Macklin Smith was diagnosed with leukemia and chose to have a bone marrow transplant. He hadn't planned to write about the experience, but the poems in Transplant “took me by surprise,” he says. “My focus had been on facing death, staying alive and being alive. When the poems came, against my will at first, they seemed to want to tell a story, each with each.”
The prospect of reading poems about cancer may
seem uninviting. But this suite of poems by Smith, an associate
professor of English, has a narrator with a wry sensibility, an
unflinching gaze at fate and a narrative style that renders his
contemplation of our precious bodily fluids (even gone-wrong) splendid
and profound, in the witty vein of the Metaphysical poets.
Transplant ($14.95) was published in
2002 by Shaman Drum Books. Order at (800) 490-7023 or at http://www.shamandrum.com/
Listen to Independence (mp3)
[ Note: “BMT” is “Bone Marrow Transplant]
Even incarcerated men and women can achieve some
Through their choice of TV programming, wardrobes, even e-mail,
Depending on the warden's policy and type of prison,
Although in the super-max federal system they cannot choose
Any of these things: they're in solitary 23 hours a day, strip searched
prior to their hour of exercise, and never go outside, no
window, and they're under artificial lighting night and day.
With the BMT, of course, it's voluntary,
Which makes a huge difference; I have signed the consent forms,
I have a window, visitors can come and go freely, I have my own
music, my books, my choice of TV shows, and my
So that even though I am harassed constantly by my care-givers, I can
maintain a certain independence,
And even though I can't leave the ward, I can walk around and chat
through my mask and wander into empty rooms and
fruitjuices at night instead of requesting them from a nurse,
And I can insist on wearing my own clothes, not a bare-ass gown,
And in my case anyhow I could refuse IV-delivered water–wow!
that was radical–If I agreed to record
every single fluid
ounce; I think the nurses had to have a staff
They used to keep BMT patients in sterile isolation, in plastic see-
through tents, with visitors restricted, but even then it
wasn't about power,
It was careful fear.
It made sense to doctors and patients both.
Then someone did a study, confirming that the psychological harm
from solitary confinement was worse as a mortality-
than the fear of infection.
Now my visitors need only know that they aren't sick or getting sick,
no cold or flu symptoms.
They still must wash their hands before entering the room,
And they can hold hands with me if they want, or sit nearby, or
they can fill up my room with their bodies and words and
love and good humor,
If I want them in my room, which sometimes I will not, it's up to me,
but most days I will welcome them,
As long as they leave their cut flowers at the nurse's station.
So it's not that bad,
I want my freedom back, but even here I have choices.
Koans? No, Queries
by Macklin Smith
Listen to: Koans? No, Queries(mp3)
So is cancer
Michigan Today Poetry Archive >