Friday, August 25, 2006

Day 7: Rx

                      This blue pill
stops the virus from replicating. Take 5 every
twelve hours with food, or milk, else
it won’t work at all. This white pill
works with it, but causes dreams
which some can't bear. The blue
and white are your Miracles. Never miss a dose
for the rest of your life.
                        Take this one
with lots of water: 6, twice a day,
to root out your pneumonia.
IMPORTANT: Don’t stop till the end
of 6 weeks. If the cough comes back,
you could literally drown
in your own phlegm. Also, stay out
of the sun.
this big white pill each morning.
Dissolve it in water or juice; it’s too
big to swallow. It will be bitter, but it’ll
make the dark rashes
on your torso and face
disappear. It is not to be confused
with this pill, which is for thrush –
to relieve the raw white patches
covering your tongue
and the insides of your mouth.
This pill is for the diarrhea those pills
will cause. Take two, as needed, after each
loose stool. Oh, & this iron pill
in case you have fatigue.
                     This brown pill
will help you regain your weight, but it may
raise your cholesterol. These pills will
counter that. Remember, you must eat
or the blue pill won’t work. One
more thing:

Be careful –
be very careful
when you take the blue pill
the first time: In some,
it causes hypersensitivity—
high fever, bloody
stool, aggressive rashes, and (if not stopped
Call us without delay
should any of this
begin to happen. Take care. Here’s
your bag.



BLUE said...

this poem does carry the weight of its title ... an Rx is an instruction to take the medicine.

there is still this very basic-instruction detachment of the speaker in the poem.

it still seems to be the voice of the clinical worker/care provider/meds dispenser.

two technical things that stand out: there is a number 1. on line one. is that there to tell us there will be more sets of instructions like this set? is it there because sometimes on a pill bottle, the directions are numbered and in this specific case, there is only one instruction? (in which case, the poem doesn't really need to tell us that.)

AND there is an asterisk before the last line/word of the poem. is this the Ayo aesthetic for numbering poem sections? what is the reader request you are making when you place an asterisk this way ... as you did in "Day 1: The Diagnosis" and "Day Negative 7 (Mother's Day)?"

well, one more technical thing: tell me about your line breaks ... are they breaths? slight pauses? are they just visual breaks and the voice should read the music of the punctuation? i'm not really sure ...

some other general feelings:

the poem delivers what the title promises. but by the time i get to poem four, detachment as a tone motif is something i feel i've been beaten over the head with in the same spot a hundred times. the detachment doesn't do anything except stay detached. it has no dimension. it's like what happens in plays when you write flat characters that have emotional settings that have only two settings: mad and really mad.

what we know of human emotion is that it's often complex. it is not one-dimensional. someone numbed and detached doesn't do just one-trick pony detachment and remain believable. there are usually many emotional layers at work all at the same time.

so i want some breadth and depth here; i want to see other ways of being detached besides just sterile language.

(other ways you can be detached):

--ignoring the patient's requests for more information.

--talking matter-of-factly about death or dying or the dead.

--killing a smaller life form without blinking.

--thinking in your own head about the list of things you have to do at home when your daily grind with HIV patients is done (while the patient is falling apart ... or worse, dying).

--being phoney ... pretending syrupy concern and doing something wicked when the patient leaves the room to let the reader know it was all fake.

--talking in monotone (how do you show vocal monotony in a poem?).

--calling a patient by a number all the time and not his name ... or calling him the wrong name.

i think what will begin to anchor some of this for me is if, like Collin suggested, you give the detached voice some tangible demographics. or if you are leaning hard towards the nondescript persona, offer a detailed emotional landscape. i've gotta have something to say that the interior still struggles like humans do, but the exterior has toughened and will not allow penentration.

and please consider layering this voice. a voice that feels detached could be feeling other emotions simultaneously.

detachment doesn't mean not human ... detached voices go home to something, they eat, sleep and piss, same as we all do. they have engaged, sometimes, in the very behaviors they are paid to warn against and treat.

and i guess the last thing i really, really want to see is a new spin on all of this. there are so many poems that describe the lesions, the pain, the phlegm. these things are scary to think about, but there is a whole emotional journey that occurs beneath the physical fight for life, too.

i am ready to read the poem(s) that give me emotional artifacts. what if your Rx were not a medical instruction but a personal-judgment instruction for how not to act in order to prevent AIDS? what if the detached voice believes that AIDS is a just punishment for something the patient is assumed to have done?

and in terms of POV, you've already given us a poem in which the healthcare worker talks to the patient. how about one in which the healthcare worker talks to other healthcare workers? to the doctors? to the patient's family? to their own families away from the hospital.

right now, this piece is pretty predictable. but i'm feeling the Coltrane directive on this: tell me tell me something new.

Collin said...

I read this last night, but wanted to sleep on it before commenting.

The cold, clincial detachment continues. I'm not sure why you've chosen (or were instructed) to go down this path, but it's not working, Ayo. It leaves me cold, and I am passionate about this subject. I am asbsolutely unmoved by this poem.

Like Cherryl, the line breaks make no sense to me. It's like prose broken into lines for the sake of breaking lines. What's the thought process here?

You had a great opportunity here to play on the idea of pills and what they do to a person, even the chance to soften this with a bit of ironic whimsy...ala "Alice In Wonderland" or Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit. pill makes you pill gives you the shits...

Again, there are building blocks here for powerful poems, but these are just blocks. I dont' feel the power yet.