Well, I went and pinched a nerve along my spinal cord or perhaps pinched the cord. I met with my terrific neurologist, Dr. Ariagno, who prescribed an MRI. Filled out the paper work and readied myself to enter the “Tube.” “Are you claustrophobic?” asked the nurse. “Nope.”
I was tempted to say, “But I am afraid of the United States.”
“We’ll get back to you about when to have your MRI.” “Thank you.”
That was a week ago. The last time I had these symptoms, an emergency surgery followed to stabilize my neck. I was told by the surgeon then to expect more surgeries because my neck is very arthritic. He’s a really good surgeon who no longer accepts our college’s retirement insurance package. (He’s also a former student of mine. Julie says the irony is so thick she can’t even cut it with a knife.)
A week and a half later, the nerve remains pinched. Yesterday Julie left a message wondering what the hold up was, given this is a pretty serious situation. Then she called around, insurance company, hospital, back to the doc’s office. This morning Julie got through to a human who informed her that the hold up is with the insurance approval software. “The order for the MRI keeps being rejected. We’re working on it.”
I should after all have said that I was afraid of the United States: There is an algorithm or script in a hunk of software taking away the feeling in my arms and legs.
The highly trained neurologist orders his patient an MRI, but the insurance software decides if I really need one. How many millions of lives are balanced by insurance companies who in my lifetime have shifted their values from caring to “hey, we can make more money if we . . .”
And the holiday means we won’t hear anything for days more. I keep falling down and into things, and Julie can hardly move for her anger.
And then there’s that parade in D.C. We won’t be watching. We just can’t, of course, but we shouldn’t. Not while our country is locking up children and tearing apart families. That’s not the time for a military parade. It’s not 1933. Or is it?
“You may lose the ability to use your
right hand.”—Surgeon’s diagnosis
I think about the end of writing and what may follow:
Some sunlight across the bowl on the kitchen table.
A daughter stopping by after work. I’ll lift the cup
of coffee with my left hand. We will laugh.
The dogs will wrestle, the older one letting
the pup pull tufts of hair from his scraggly ears.
The geese will still bring their V, north, then south.
I know a solitary one will fly by and I will wonder
about its being alone, if it will find its way.
I won’t know. You’ll say,
“Go ahead, stir the soup, add some more
tomatoes if you like or maybe some oregano.”
I will use the phone, but I’m used to stamps,
love writing a name and address, their steady
place floating in the center of a moving
universe, then adding where to return
the letter if it doesn’t find its way and needs
to wander back. Up there, in the left corner.
That’s a kind of home. And in the center, another.
And there we are, heading out, hoping we connect
without knowing when. Maybe not even where.
Published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)
On July 25 from 1-4pm, at The Pines in the Dow Gardens in Midland, Jack will lead a workshop on writing personal history. That evening at 7pm he will join Jim Ottaviani for a reading in the MCFTA Founders Room, 1801 W. St. Andrews, Midland. To register for the workshop, email Helen Raica-Klotz at firstname.lastname@example.org. The reading is free.
If you enjoy the annual Reading at The Red Dock, this year’s will take place on August 13 at 6pm. This year I’ll be joined by D.L. James and Mark Hiskes. Come early for music, food and drink, and a good time on the high water harbor!
On August 20 at 7pm, I’ll be reading with Greg Rappleye at The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague. Talk about a place where the atmosphere alone is a joy, let alone the food and beverages.
AND… Kristin Brace’s first book-award-winning collection, Toward the Wild Abundance (Michigan State University Press), has been released! Stop here to pick up your copy now!
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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.