Spotlight: I Remember Learning How to Dive by Ada Wofford

August 15, 2007 3:15pm

When it happened it was all

terror and flash

John was at home

I was at work

Ischemic stroke

Flash and shimmer

Lucky he knocked over glasses on the way down

lucky a neighbor heard the crash

Artery narrows/blocks

blood clot (thrombus)

brain starved of oxygen = ischemic

embolism-clot that breaks and travels to the brain

Why was I taking notes?

Maybe it’s important?

There is the left and right carotid arteries

and the left and right vertebral arteries

There is the anterior supply and the posterior supply

The basilar artery and the emergency conduit

which is the posterior communicating artery

Circle of Willis—central hub of blood flow to the brain

In flow and out flow

brains swell when starved of oxygen.

I scratch on my pad

Dried up Bic taken from a bank

He knew I had no idea what he was saying

maybe he just didn’t want to explain

maybe it’s easier than saying your husband is paralyzed through most of his body

easier than saying he’ll probably need a special device to speak,

than saying he’ll never walk again

saying the stroked cause some of the damage but the hit he took to the head when he fell did the most

easier than saying he’ll need someone to feed him until we see how he takes to the therapies

But these were said anyway.

Maybe the lecture was a warmup

A covering

A veil being lifted

Somewhere to hide

Like screened confession

Like staring at the sun

I scribble the black and gray representation of John’s ruined brain into my notebook

My own place to hide

August 15, 2007 5:09pm

The doctor kept talking

voice reduced to a static of white

I colored in the a in Mead

There were black specs in the white tiles

that made up the floor

I stared at them

wondered who designed them

what were they thinking?

Were they scribbling in a pad

with a Bic when they came up with it?

Stupid thoughts

The smell of sanitizer

The echo of nurses shuffling in the hallway

August 15, 2007 7:38pm

She left the hospital without saying goodbye to her husband

The air was hot and sticky

It was still August

The sun sat low and orange

And made the world appear in flames

She got into her car and drove home with the windows down

The thick air smacked cool against her face as she drove

Everything was burning

September 4, 2007 9:33pm

Tonight, I am staying in Judy’s old room.

Her son’s old room

Storage room

A place where things are left and forgotten

Where I will live until I find an apartment

I will bring John back and live in his service

Poor John

Poor John

Dear John

Sick John

Invalid John

Saint John

I will feed you and bathe you and clothe you and treat you and carry you and sleep you and breathe you and sight you and touch you and hear you and taste you and walk you and stand you and live you and live and live and live and live and live until you die.

August 15,2007 10:12pm

Look at me.

Look at me lying in the bathtub.

I am old and withered.

dried fruit.

newspaper in the rain,

sticking to sidewalk.

slow and stretching

and ugly white.

I leave my glasses on so I may see my tired legs and the hair I am supposed to shave.

For what purpose I do so I’ve quit guessing.

Short rough bristles are scraped away and I have learned to feel clean.

The dripping from my arm as I pull the razor along my shin echoes off the tiles and the pipes.

Tonight, it is an awful sound to me.

It mimics a clock.

The water is gray with soap and covers me nearly to my breasts.

No need to look into the

mark-made-wound by

sun-bleached young-bleached


That took in the man that lies helpless and superfluous in both my life and his.

In hospital-bed-white-sheets alone

thinking slowly and with the steady breathing of an invalid.

Poor John.

Dear John.

Look at me.

Look at me here with mark-made-wound by

love-drenched god-drenched


Who never lived

Who never lived

Who never lived

Look at me as I lay here in gray still water.

Fluorescent light made cold and white by the tiles and the paint.

I am the weakest thing in this room.

The water, with its contrails of soap swirling and jetting, runs through me.

It is the bones of me.

The bones of me are translucent and permeable.

They are not there.

It is the water that holds me erect.

False edifice.

Nothing monument

floating in water.

How will this reality not crumble me indefinitely?

You had the stroke but what have I had?

I am as broken as you.

I am as useless and lifeless as you.

I am a tomb, inside me are all the years.

The twenty in my room,

the thirty-two with you,

the twenty-nine in this house,

in this tub,

in this water,

in this fluorescent light that drowns the room in cold unwavering white.

Tomorrow I will call Judy and tell her about you.

It can wait till tomorrow.

It must wait till tomorrow.

The words would be impossible to speak tonight.

This light has stolen them from me.

This water has drained them from me,

has rushed through my body,

my bones,

and took every syllable and letter.

They are somewhere beneath the gray.

I dare not look.

I dare not move.

Horrid monument.

I sit.

Groaning edifice of me.

I am.

Look at me.

Dear John.

Poor John.

Look at me.

“There is plenty of historical precedence for long, narrative poetry. It’s a tradition even older than Ancient Greece, but it’s an art that isn’t practiced nearly as much these days. Leave it to Ada Wofford and I Remember Learning How to Dive to make this literary form of art seem relevant again. Written in what feels like poetic diary entries, Wofford’s collection is a deeply personal story that sheds light on those who suffer in silence, and how that suffering stems from one’s past experiences to present day tragedies. With captivating characters, timely flashbacks, and incredible imagery and symbolism, this book is no lighthearted lark, but it’s a winner that will stick with any reader who appreciates great poetry and an interest in the human condition.”

– Jared Morningstar, Author of American Fries, Poems and Stories


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