Flares, Birthday & They're Poisoning Me & Diagnosis, After Diagnosis
by Jeannine Gailey
Solar flares eject plasma beyond the sun’s corona
radiation emitted by solar flares may disrupt radar, radio
its mechanisms not well understood
My first flare came on the week of the solar eclipse
when the shadow fell cold over us, and the birds stopped singing
I wasn’t ready to loosen my grip, to lose my footing
I wasn’t ready to lose to multiple sclerosis
its mechanisms poorly understood
Rosa “sun flare” produces yellow blooms in my garden
not quite as disruptive
In 2012 a massive solar storm barely missed earth
We are waiting for the next. We cannot predict
but its mechanisms are not well understood
A girl, bright blonde, stands with the sun behind her
- tendrils escape the corona of her hair
My flare lit up the MRI, white coronas around black holes
I fell down a lot. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t remember names.
There is a web site, solarweather.com. It records
flare sprays, lists solar storms, makes predictions but
The light made me dizzy. The air was filled with smoke.
I felt at any time I could fall off the edge of the earth. Tilting.
My mechanisms are not well understood
Someday our sun may flame out in a superflare
like other stars around the universe
like me, waiting for the light-up of neural networks,
waiting for it to burn me up, a flicker of brightness in the dark
I was in a flare that means my brain inflamed my myelin sheath attacked and thinned around my brain I was dizzy I threw up I couldn’t walk I couldn’t talk and all I remember was the corona around the sun during the eclipse. Remember the shadows it threw on the ground, eerie and death-like. I know not to look straight at the sun but these holes in my brain burn like the delicate retina the solar rays the corona the plasma that could not be contained my flare could not be contained my hair flared out in the sun like a halo but I was not an angel I had fallen I had fallen in the shadow of the brilliant flare I could not write my own name I could not remember what you told me but I remembered incandescence
I’m writing a poem
as the pink moon rises early
above soggy cherry blossoms, nearly blown.
I won’t ask for a present. After all,
last birthday they told me I was dying
of cancer. I believed them and yet
I kept planting things. I got a kitten,
signed a mortgage, learned a few
words of a new language.
Because for me,
the only way to keep going
is to keep writing the story
as if it were going forward
on the knife-edge of the future
uncertain, shimmering in the distance…
Now the same doctors tell me
there are lesions in my brain,
darkness eating away at my connections,
my neural net growing holes.
It is slowing me down
but I have not stopped yet.
I can no longer see the moon, the clouds
a veil, but I trust it will remain,
that ghost remote and clean, as quiet
as my own heart as it
remains, remains, remains.
They’re Poisoning Me
You hear an old woman shriek from next door
in the hospital hallway. And maybe it’s the Ativan
to calm the nerves in your veins, but she’s right –
it began as soon as we were born, the drugs
they gave your mother, before that,
the bombs they set off in the desert with dust
that floated fallout to the Midwest, to be picked up
in the bones, in the teeth of children.
The clouds of DDT dropped from planes
over our farms. We dream of mushroom clouds,
of Alice’s toxic mushrooms that helped us hallucinate.
What’s that beyond the looking glass?
Have you even looked at the ingredients?
Even now in the soil, the water, the air,
there is arsenic in the apples, in the rice,
there are blades of grass carrying cesium,
mercury in the fish. Contaminated sea water
from Fukushima. Where are the whales, their singing?
I think I can hear them now, out my window,
or maybe it is the old woman keening,
waiting for someone to bring her something,
some unknown savior, some bliss of blackout.
Dialogue, After Diagnosis
He said, I’ll get some extension cord.
She said, I’m so tired
of having the same conversation.
He said, Pancakes for breakfast?
He said, You’ve come unstuck in time.
She said, I have to remember to take all the anti-nausea and vertigo meds before we go out.
He said, It’s pitch dark outside.
She said, I live in the white spaces in between.
She said, I can still see the wings of the hummingbird, the stellar jay.
He said, What should I pick up? Should we make a salad?
She said, Endive asparagus carrot fennel.
She said, I’m afraid I’ll never feel like myself again.
My hands feel like claws.
You know the kitten left actual teeth marks on my arm?
He said, We never know what is coming.
She said, Despite everything, around me,
the entire world is in flight.
Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She's the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA's Elgin Award. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review and is forthcoming in Ploughshares and Poetry. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.