Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tremor — JAMA

My good friend Ted McMahon brought the latest issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) to our poetry group last night, and I was so delighted to see my poem "Tremor" appearing there. Charlene Breedlove had accepted it a while back, and I had forgotten it was due out this month.

The poem arises from my work with Cambodian refugees, and is really well-placed, as this issue contains research articles about Cambodian refugees, refugee mental health, PTSD, somatization disorder, etc. Here are the first few lines (I'll try not to scoop JAMA by posting the whole poem):

Tremor

Because she took an extra scoop of rice
the soldiers made her watch
while one of them held a machete
swung it into her uncle's neck.
Don't close your eyes or we'll shoot you!
they said. She remembers how his face
grimaced, his eyes still blinking
as his head tumbled toward her . . .


Read the rest at a doctor's office near you! (Or at JAMA's website).

15 comments:

Patty said...

Peter, I was able to read your poem on my U. database. It truly moved me, particularly the last 5 lines. I don't usually do this, but I posted a poem I wrote at my blog that came to mind as I read yours, and will illuminate why your stunning poem resonated so deeply with me.

Thank you.

Peter said...

Thanks Patty . . . I'll go look~

Patty said...

Ugh, I just read my third sentence. Talk about convuluted. Note to self: don't leave comments before drinking coffee.

aimee said...

argh! i MUST read the end of this poem!! JAMA won't let me register--can u pls email me this poem--I can't get it out of my head. (yikes,...that was NOT meant to be a bad pun)
:(

Pamela said...

When I go in to work (usually work at home), I'll read the rest of that poem. I thought I had access to JAMA but don't have it on the home computer. It's very strange to look forward to going in to work, but this poem is compelling.

gina said...

I couldn't get to it either! Won't you post it for us, Peter?

As it is, it leaves off here in the most disturbing way...

Peter said...

OK: I'll post the rest when I get home (I'm at work now). Sorry to leave you hanging . . .

Peter said...

Here it is:

Tremor


Because she took an extra scoop of rice
the soldiers made her watch
while one of them held a machete,
swung it into her uncle’s neck.
Don’t close your eyes or we’ll shoot you!
they said. She remembers how his face
grimaced, his eyes still blinking
as his head tumbled toward her.
How his legs kicked as if his body
were still trying to run away.
How can the body move without
the head?
she asks, referring to her left arm —
the way it rocks back and forth
when she rests it on her lap. How
it stops when she reaches
for her tea cup, her chopsticks.
I cup her elbow in my palm, feel
the ratcheting as I flex her forearm
forward and back; notice
how her eyes seem to gaze
at a faraway place, her face unyielding
as Angor Wat’s stone Buddhas.
I do not know how to ease or erase
what war has written in her memory,
but her tremor should lessen
with the right medicine. And that hope
seems to bring her a moment’s peace.

Anne said...

I was able to read this at work (oh, the many joys of working in a big, well-connected library system) though I wasn't able to give it my full attention. I love the lines "but her tremor should lessen / with the right medicine. And that hope" -- love the line break there, giving "hope" a little of the credit for easing the tremor as well as bringing some peace.

Also, it is extremely cool that JAMA publishes poetry! I can't say the same for any journal I can think of in my field, except for Progressive Librarian which isn't exactly a highly-cited, top-tier journal (though it's about the most interesting one we've got)...

Peter said...

Thanks, Anne. Yes, Charlene Breedlove at JAMA is amazing. And the poem in each issue is actually a pretty populare feature among docs, from what I hear.

gina said...

"the head? she asks, referring to her left arm —"

Everything pivots there, on that line, its strange recognition of the body as detached from the I. Beautiful, disturbing. Thanks, Peter.

C. Dale said...

Beautiful poem.

Nick said...

Fine poem that is well wrought.

Artichoke Heart said...

It's a terrific and powerful poem. Thank you for sharing!

Peter said...

Thanks artichoke. Welcome (back) to blog-world.