Thursday, January 19, 2017

Poet Catherine Zickgraf

Catherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan, and three dozen other cities, but now her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write poetry. Her work has appeared in Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, Victorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her new chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press and is available at

Watch and read more of her poetry at


Much like a coffin this seems. But dreaming
of my banana bread baking here in this oven                         
reminds me I am alive, saving my memories,
these mornings folding laundry, baby asleep.
We’re hoping this, my fifth MRI will expose
my neuropathy displayed into panes of spine. 
Today I pose for photos I’ll show the experts 
in hope they’ll extinguish my burning nerves. 

I’m guitar strings that frayed along their way,
it was all those years I overstretched in ballet.                      
Such pain, this pain has me writhing, I suffer.   
I could die, my pain is incompatible with life.

Am I done? I am dead in the machine instead
of staying home to sow twirls of string beans.                                  

They slide me out where waiting is my sweet
husband, still so young. And he wheels me to
the front row parking lot for the handicapped.
Heading home, we count our day as progress.
Do you thrive out there celebrating your life?
I dream of dreams, of lost memories, lost life.
 Poet Catherine Zickgraf


The shadow of herself laid her down
but never woke her back up.  Then it
escaped like prayer through windows
into the night airs where fireflies hum
their nocturnes and lure each other in.
May punishment for sin never extend
to the faultless among us—youngsters
burying their mother should run freely
without her, flying like prayer, without
a burden, freed from all her complaints,
greed, a damned demand for resources.
But her shadow carries them when they 
fly like fireflies, to find their own peace.       

Writing/Writhing in Bed (a pantoum)

She dreams of rising to walk again,
been a year bedridden in writhing pain.
When days are long,
she retells her dreams to pass the time—
all this year bedridden in writhing pain.

Finding joy in the love of family,
she retells her dreams to pass the time—
she explores the story of futures within,       
finding joy in the love of family.

So when days are long,
she explores the story of futures within        
and dreams of rising to walk again.

I’m Done Having MRI’s

I’m done.
I’ve had three in three years—
limbs scanned for errors,
head checked in slices. 
Each test returned stamped
Results:  normal. 
But the thing is 
I’m not normal, I’m not.

I was 22, and my new husband
drove me to my second scan. 
I stretched out my legs in the back seat,
gulping coconut rum from a sprite bottle.
Give strong drink to those who are suffering.
At least give something—
the doctor prescribed Tylenol and exercise.

Entombment again in one position
would be too much,
my limbs channeling electric throbs,
my brain confusing the message. 
All of that pain came back as
Results:  normal.

The next year, still uninsured,
Mommom paid cash so they could
slide me again into their machine,
surge it like an oven, and call me well—
with Results:  normal typed on my carbon copy. 

I became a cane-walker a few months later,
then left law school soon after that
to go into a wheelchair. 
Though once I was a stretched-limbed dancer. . .
legs strong as trees,
planted soles and a planted soul,
with port-de-bras fingers sweeping the grass, 
. . . those parts burn in their tissues now. 
My head lags on its tired base. 
I’m afraid to walk, afraid of life,
afraid of more tests that say:  you’re fine. 

Filmed by Smyte-IX at The Rotunda, Philadelphia, June 2012


My muse is sick, beside himself.
He’s muted music, unchoosing his truths.
Shrinks are running loose in twos,
sorting his dreams for amusement.

He’s plugged into machines
that eat him insane,
they’re rejecting his reactions.
No drought of drugs
or escaping the trains—
their same collisions
are drawing the same blood
over and over and over.

Under a cold sun,
he waits without windows.
Chorded in a corner,
he copes in his crisis.
But behind his eyes,
he’s running wild,
shining inside the draining sky—
until a key unbolts his heavy door,
and they empty his mind
through the floor.

No comments:

Post a Comment