Another Kind of Valentine

scraggly tree poem

Tracing Pain

She arrives late frail and with pain dimming

her usually vivacious face.

With thin white and shaking fingers, she traces

the map of her pain.  Pain makes roads

up and down her arm.  She knows each one,

knows the roads of nerve and muscle.

Carefully she explains the destination

of each curving and stubborn road.


Still she tries to understand the metaphor

of this day.  Leaning in toward me,

she strives to understand detritus 

and how another poet uses the leavings

of insects to describe pain’s crawl from shoulder

to elbow to wrist bone.  Puzzlement shows

on her movable face and still she tries.


Slowly my brain sifts her situation.

The pain won’t let her write

so I take up pen and paper.

Her speech is quick and feather light.

I try to write her map of pain.

I ask her to sign her name.

Determined she pushes her damaged arm

and shoulder to write.  With tremulous fingers

she writes the faith that keeps her going.


At the end she leans her body towards

the man who now shares her love.

She stands, grasps the handles of his wheelchair

and whispers plans of where they’ll go.


A tumor hides in his brain, seeks

hiding places in bone and tissue.

Radiation burns track its outline

up and down his body.

This love arrived late and they now travel

wherever it leads them.  Leaning one

into the other they face toward

whatever joy and sorrow is theirs to share.

Janice Eskridge  © 2014

About Winding Stream Press

Janice DeRuiter Eskridge, M.F.A. is a poet who worked for over a decade as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools. Helen Shoemaker, Ph.D. L.M.F.T. is a university professor who teaches in the areas of child development and counseling. She is also a therapist in private practice.
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