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  November 2015
volume 12 number 2
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  Kushal Poddar
  Jan Steckel
  Wanda Vanhoy Smith
 
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Jan Steckel November 2015
   

 

bio


photo by tess. lotta

    Jan Steckel was a pediatrician who took care of Spanish-speaking children until chronic pain persuaded her to change professions to writer, poet and medical editor. She is an activist for bisexual and disability rights. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work won the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest, a Zeiser Grant for Women Artists, the Jewel by the Bay Poetry Competition, Triplopia's Best of the Best competition, and three Pushcart nominations. She grew up in West Los Angeles and lives in Oakland, California.

   

 

Tom's Quality of Light

Devolve again into the same mandala.
Sketch to focus. It's your meditation.
The nurse brings your evening medication.
I see it's hard to swallow.

Draw repetitive abstract flowers.
Cedric, the black nurse whom you say
is from pine country is with you today.
He charts minutes, swallows, urine, hours.

Think only of the years, months, weeks
you may or may not purchase like indulgences
with chemo. Make known your preferences
to go back home, among the other luminous antiques.

You and Debbie made a boho life:
thirty years of squalid joy and still inspired.
No judge or minister required
to make your one great love your wife.

Your ancient kitty, missing her Tom
now yowls to the empty studio.
She thinks your absence rude. You know
that emptiness and silence are not calm.

Instead, they swell to gales overnight
that swallow reason. Everywhere you turn
sail coffins like oaken ships. Eyes burn.
Worry chemo will obliterate your sight.

Can one calculate from fear and pain a quotient
quantifying life gained over quality thereof?
She wants, (your one and only love),
for you to die a person, not a patient.

That's progress, I suppose, from refraining
even from the thought that you may one day die.
I want you both to look Death in the eye
so you can see your light as it is waning.

copyright 2015 Jan Steckel

   

 

Lady in the Tower

I don't want to be saved.
I spin poems out my casement
like hair to reel word-lovers in.

Magic writhes eel-like.
Everything glows with it,
phosphorescent plankton lighting waves.

Sunlight filters through kelp forests.
Silver-scaled minnow schools circle widdershins.
Love in the world hums incandescent.
Stories clamor to be told,
easy as picking up periwinkles.
Delight in not being dead yet.

Blood rises like hurricanes out of the sea.
Hold each moment at arm's length.
Write it down, or time escapes,

watercolor washed from brushes,
world-hues swirling away.
Take this mint leaf. Sap glows

in veins, taste aromatic,
still alive. Take these lines
still savoring of me, Take

the light that spills through my brain,
overflow words, wonder that is me.
Eat. Drink. Read. See.

copyright 2015 Jan Steckel