from the Dana Foundation blog
In February 2011, we announced a brain poetry contest. In April, National Poetry Month, we revealed the five winners, chosen by Michele Kotler, executive director of theCommunity-Word Project.
These poems convey thoughts on the brain in a range of ways—from verse inspired by injury and recovery to explorations of the senses and functions of the three-pound organ.
By Catherine Morocco
I’m shaking scarves over my mother’s bed,
where there’s no evidence of thought.
In one of seven silken scarves, lithe women
sway around a mandala. Their skirts are painted
amber, apricot, and blue. Each sylph is named
after a continent: Antarctica’s fur headdress flames,
blue dolphins leap, swim at her feet.
My mother’s eyes are closed, while Oceana’s
teasing head is crowned in grass and leaves.
She holds a plate of purple fish. I spread
Toros Magnifico around my mother’s feet. A picador
thrusts his pic to pierce the bull into the ring.
In corners, matadors and bull horns’ swelling.
Velvet ladies hurtle roses to the bloody kill.
Just lying here, my mother is a dreamless spot
without a nerve. I cannot stir her. Is she struggling
with shades? Will she open up her eyes to see the golds,
smell fish, flowers, blood? I tie a corner
of the bull fight to a corner of the dance, join seven
scarves into one rope, lands billowing. If I throw it,
she must cling. I’ll pull her to her body, knot by knot.
“Son’s Story” is one of 60 poems written by Catherine Morocco while she was recovering from hematoma surgery. These poems are part of an as yet unpublished collection that she has titled Brain Storm. Recovering from Brain Injury. She has published in numerous poetry journals and collections of poems. She currently writes and teaches in Newton Massachusetts.
Non Compos Mentis
By Ann Freggens Flynt
My narcoleptic brain must be
full of synchronicity
Nightmares never fail to sneak
up on my time in bed till
and casts its spell
until I make another sojourn and awake
Memories lurk just out of reach
I memorize but it retreats
and tries to climb
a black monolith
fresh out of time
upon my soul is withering
like the glares
of those who
cannot see that brains
are mostly mystery
and those who suffer
its many foes
must muddle through
and makes it so
making me feel
a wiring synapse or ruined
part that makes
Me who I am and not just part of me.
A resident of Jackson, Tennessee, Ann Freggens Flynt is currently pursuing a post-graduate special education certification with an emphasis on mild-to-moderate children at Union University. She is married, has two daughters, and was diagnosed, finally, with narcolepsy in 2003 after many years of wondering what was wrong.
By Julie Atwood
Devoid of awareness
I once was blind
Lost in darkness
Within the realms of my mind
A ray of light
Entered my tomb
Within my womb
Before my eyes
A dance of fools
Living by lies
Amidst the chaos
Of wailing cries
I loosened my tethers
Severed my ties
Faltered and stumbled
A drunken knave
Walked to the entrance
The mouth of the cave
A wave of knowledge
I did greet
It eddied and pooled
Surged at my feet
A reservoir of wisdom
I did save
Enlightenment of time
Spent in a cave
The sage of Plato
Speaks of my plight
From a dwelling of darkness
To embracing the light
Released from bondage
Freed from my chain
A well of creativity
Now my new domain
These chambers of my brain
Over which I reign
Julie Atwood has been a cartoonist and writer with a newspaper in Vermont for more than 24 years.
Picture the Mind
By Myra Sklarew
It’s not a pretty sight—Vesalius’s folded surface
of the brain. Or da Vinci’s ventricles, spinal cord
trailing down like a braided afterthought.
Or each hemisphere bed down in its cubicle,
parted by the corpus callosum, crossing guard
for traffic back and forth. Now Descartes comes
on stage, appoints the pineal gland—trusty messenger
between matter and mind. Hard to say when beauty
slipped into this equation. Axon and dendrite.
Molecules dancing across synaptic space.
Receptors hungry for their messages.
Cascade of ions in their chrysalis of light.
Myra Sklarew worked in the 50s at Yale Medical School under Karl Pribram studying frontal lobe function and delayed response memory of Rhesus monkeys. A collection of poetry, Harmless, was published in 2010, and a study of trauma and memory is forthcoming.
By Christopher Boone
From exterior to inner depths
The flux of the hidden
Dark dynamo core sets it
Converging, diverging: transforming
Motions form and modify
As mind grinds against itself,
Passive margins become kinetic --
Formations extruding along yawning rifts
Subducted at deep-mind trenches. Tension
Shreds and fragments once solid thought.