Saturday, November 29, 2008


Today marks the first time I've included an original poem on this site. I chose this one since it is in keeping with the theme of the blog, as other posts seldom touch on the subject of lameness, I thought the verse here, and the introductory remarks following a good fit. See what you think.

Susie is an elderly woman who was a member of a poetry group I was invested in November 2006. She is a visual artist and a published poet. Her voice is distinctly refined and articulate-a southern drawl to die for. Something else makes Susie’s voice unique: she has Parkinson's disease. Her speech is slightly affected, but it’s her hands that shake like leaves.

Susie's manifest courage in group one night birthed the poem that follows, entitled Blue. Our instructor Victoria, gave us an in-class assignment. She asked us to take out a piece of paper and writing instrument. She said, clear off everything else from the table but the paper and the pen. Now, take the writing instrument in your non-dominant hand. My heart pinched and fell. As much as I looked forward to these assignments, I felt defeated in that minute like never before. Had it been an assignment we were to take home, I would have had the perfect cover and could have simply said I did not feel like participating (which, I suppose, I still could have said) but there and then, in that moment, I was challenged in a new way; in the presence of the others I was compelled to decide whether to get up and excuse myself or whether to give it a wobbly go.

Now, draw a picture with that non-dominant hand- yes, go ahead, you can do it. I watched Susie, the woman afflicted by this dreadful debilitating disease, awkwardly clasp her pen in her fist and strike the white paper with erratic blue lines.

After you've finished your drawing, I want you take your drawing home and collaborate with the drawing to write a poem. I was still stunned. But it was witnessing Susie persevere and the words collaborate with the drawing that spurred me to try it.

I patterned my steps toward clasping the pen as Susie had. I fixed the pen in my surprised left fist and began to draw the outline of a head and body. A first. Something I'd not ever given myself permission to try, I did because I watched Susie do what I did not think possible.

Two things struck me about Susie and prompted this short verse One: she can use neither of her hands the way in which she was once accustomed. And two: her husband died in early 2006. The loss nearly devastated her and she decided to grapple with grief by writing more and by coming to poetry group. Her courage lifted me. Her passion for writing, inspired me then and does to this day.


Shaking lines bleed blue
on fiber bleached, then sold,
so her words have a home-
yes, a home, and a place
to leap for joy.


Anne E. Mann said...

Only the Lord can empower the lame to lead us all in the Dance of the Beloved!

Words, rearing, stamping, snorting
Awaiting the starting bell of obedience.
They're off! Thundering, drumming, straining
No holds barred, no holding back.
And the winner is?
Wallace, by a leg, lame
By a fist, clinching a pen
You Go, Wallace Mercer.

Wallace Mercer said...


Thankful for your kind words and more so for your encouragement to keep at this labor through long drought and difficult seasons.

Grateful, WM