Listening to the body

posted in: The Journey | 1
Dark woods of big trees at dusk.

The body is always talking to us. 

This week, for me, included a recurring cricopharyngeal spasm – or in other words, a cramp in one of the muscles of my pharynx, typified in my case by the feeling of a painful lump in my throat and the sensation that something is stuck that cannot be swallowed down. 

Doctors aren’t quite sure what causes these spasms, but of course, anxiety is indicated. Anxiety, oh my faithful companion since childhood. Anxiety, gift-wrapped and presented to me by my mother who suffered mightily under its influence.

And of course, there’s plenty to be anxious about. No need to list here as I’m sure you have your own list which likely shares several items with mine. I wonder though if this week’s cricopharyngeal spasm might be my body manifesting what I feel so acutely – that I cannot get the words on the page – that I am choking on unwritten poems. 

Picture my mind as a deep wood just after sunset, replete with blue shadows and indistinct paths. The poems, small children dressed all in white – I see them, lingering further in, just flashes and glimpses. I hear a little whisper and sit down at the page and now there is only the sound of wind high in the trees. No words.

I return to all of the prompts that have worked in the past. I try to ignore the voice that tells me that the world doesn’t need any more mediocre poems by a middle-aged white woman. I read poetry voraciously. I compartmentalize all of my social media acquaintances crowing over the poems they’re writing, publishing, winning awards, reading virtually all around the country. I get to the desk early in the morning.

Is the toll of the pandemic just too heavy right now? The weird combination of virtual frenzy and actual silence difficult for the human mind to parse? Is the weird pressure in my throat being caused by my own hands around it? 

A tiny pandemic haiku leaks out. 

this endless winter
I am struggling to swallow
death wedged in my throat


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