Saturday, February 07, 2009

REBUILDING THE PYRAMIDS: Poems of Healing in a Sick World by Mike Amado

Poems of Healing in a Sick World
by Mike Amado, Ibbetson Street Press, 2008

Review by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard

Mike Amado’s extraordinary book redeems society from its deliberate efforts to render illness, death and suffering invisible. It explores and reveals the three sides of living with End State Kidney Disease: Dis_Ease, the reality of medical practices that often make a person feel like an organ, Coping, the dailiness of living while facing death, and Healing. The latter shares Amado’s extraordinary celebration and contemplation of his spirit and soul as well as his understanding of his connection to the life of our earth. He understands that our lives are extraordinarily complex, that our dealings with the medical profession are often frustrating, that we gain perspective and wisdom while dealing with what seem like overwhelming problems.

It is astonishing that such a young person, a man in his early thirties, can give us such a clear perception of the problems of dealing with the medical profession, a practice overrated by the healthy. In the first section of his book his poem TALES FROM THE CHAIR, Amado explores the pain of his treatment and expands it into metaphysics.

“Many smiles
in scrubs would say:
You look good as
Self-esteem drains
three times a week.

Catheters draw Chi
from body tissues.
Technicians say:
We’re removing excess
fluid, it can kill you.

The poem ends with a view of the universe that encompasses the tragedy that affects humanity around the world and is inspired by a power that is deeply personal.

The world is burned fields,
heavens evaporate,
angels, hit with layoffs,
leap from skyscrapers,
their bodies never found.

One of the most moving poems in this section, TO THE WOMB connects Amado’s suffering with his reentry into earth and sky. The third stanza lifts us into a spiritual and enlightened world that accepts scars, silence, graves and the many paths to eternity.

There runs a river I call sky,
Horizon names me. My mind disembarks,
I enter the Earth that I call Mother.
Dry shores soaked by waves.

Mother, my body is scars over scars.
I lay in a medical grave of cold,
White sheets, silent call buttons.
Your song disappears.

Mother, meet me in the water
with my cast-off flesh,
see if we choose to let go

or wake up. Mother,
open me to let in more light.
Your womb shapes snowflake stars.

Heart-wisdom swells in a sliver of a breath,
I know now my name:
I rise on Serpent’s head to bring to the sky
The orange crescent amid the webbed stars!

The section COPING reveals the inability of the medical profession to deal with the pain of illness and dying. In the poem, DOCTOR, DOCTOR, Amado responds to the shallowness revealed by the so- called healing profession. The end of this long poem is a stage where the physician and the patient argue over how to confront reality.

May I chose the road that ascends,
but not sterile?
No, you may not.
Like landscaping and plumbing,
medical science is here to provide a service!
All we give is all we have.
…And not all I need.
My life in medical hands does not demand
I dream your reality.
Patient, stop your dreaming,
Fill out this annual smiley-faced survey.
And on the survey, I wrote
I have filled up many suggestion boxes
with dead forests. My T-shirt reads:
I survived a “failed” transplant
and all I got was this brochure.

One of his loveliest poems in the final section, THE FIRST EMANATION OF LIGHT helps us experience his dialysis and his pain, but ends with these affirming lines, “Cells/ are micro-Gods. /They thwart the darkness, /this harvest season/ that promises burial. / Cells secretly invent light.

In this section Amado’s spirit is alive and intense, burning with light as well as agony. His poem MY MANTRA is wider than prayer, is already a soul that has shed its bodily limitations and is soaring. “What sustains me trembles /with curiosity/ The whistle of a humming bird/ and the tongue of a Spider Flower/ in perfect pitch. / What sustains me/ could be a mantra/ “Remember, Transcend, Reclaim, Ascend”/Remember: who you are/ where you come from/ Transcend: your limitations. / Reclaim your inner wisdom/ and…Ascend!.

This book belongs in hospitals and doctors’ offices to heal the isolation of the seriously ill. It also belongs in medical schools so that physicians can deepen their understanding as well as bring wisdom to their patients. Most importantly, it is a collection of prayers and a celebration. Truth usually emerges from small, secret places, from the extraordinary range of personal experience. Thus, this book is a wonderful guide that helps us all understand the hidden dimensions of life.

*********To order go to:

Marguerite Guzman Bouvard/ Ibbetson Update/Feb 2009

* Reviewer Marguerite Guzman Bouvard was for many years a professor of Political Science at Regis College and a director of poetry workshops. She is multidisciplinary and has published 15 books, numerous articles in the fields of political science, psychology, literature and poetry. Both her poetry and essays have been widely anthologized. She has received fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute, the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and from the Puffin Foundation. She has been a writer in residence at the University of Maryland and has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony the Yaddo Foundation, the Djerassi Foundation, the Leighton Artists’ colony at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

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