I Seek Healing in the Usual Places (and other poems)

I Seek Healing in the Usual Places

“Statistics on the prevalence of myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome vary. The CDC estimates that one million people in the US have ME/CFS and as many as 17-24 million people worldwide have ME/CFS. A recent UK biobank study places that estimate at 30 million… 90% of patients are not diagnosed.” 
— Me-pedia.org

Every story has a short and long version I tell you
to cup a folded square of paper in your hands, fragile from the strikes
of many knives Hold it to the window like a white leaf
of winter A single light-singed dove Once, I had gazelle
brown legs Once, I pounded and polished the floorboards
like a dancing honeybee

There is an old tale about this—
I am not the first or last to lose something
precious Once, a selkie swam to shore, wiggled from her seal
cloak She left footprints like blooming orchids
in the sand She did not look back She was innocent to the sharp
caverns of men
You would like me to speak less
poetically, you say to your screen Stick to four-cornered
facts Appointments are only fifteen minutes
I am not worried—
I can conserve words as I once warmed
crystals, a single flake upon the valley
of my tongue I was weightless as seaweed
and now I am viral, anchored by body I did not pay
IN OCEAN With one wobbly arm I hold my head
upright Thoughts struggle upstream I was faster than a moth
flipping into darkness I spoke the language of anemones
catching currents
I take the paper from your tight
hand, loosen my fingers Help me go back
Wings ripple
and storm and a blizzard of needles fills the room—
a chain of snowflakes springing open, ten shapes linked
at the elbows Thirty thousand, there could be Or thirty million
From beneath the snow you shiver, tell me
you are listening I let the insubstantial white paper
surround me I had a skin that could
charm the moonlight

Cygnet Passage

We dress as moon priestesses: cloud-laced silk and icicle drip chantilly, ticking forehead pendants. My other friend dons lederhosen, paints death on his face then turns raven. In the photo, he grins; we enfold him like swans. After, we rush into night. Out the front door, under the bare clematis vine, across the wet layer of fallen leaves. We fly down one-way streets, our empty bags rustling. We are seeking treasures: a stranger’s glance, a brush of sweaty fingers. Through the underpass’ jaws, at the throat, the warehouse jugular pulses, spewing light we wade then swim through, phosphorescent. In the press of water, schools of fish part and mirrorball scales flicker with bass, dripping tie-dyed graffiti across our snowy slates. I somehow lose my companions. My body is a heavy buoy and my eyes gain and lose focus with each jolt of a passing stranger. One corridor blurs into another. In a bathroom, giddy with exhaustion, for a moment I don’t recognize myself, black pyramids of makeup smeared across each temple in the mottled reflection. I wilt momentarily against the wall and then allow the water to sweep me back to the throngs, to my waiting friends. This is how I will remember it later: An abrupt coming of age. The last night I am well. The viral storm descends on all souls, hidden in the final November leaves. Falling into bed, I touch the place where the moon’s fingerprint remains and then bury my head in feathers, leave it there for years. 

Seal Boy

I would write you a song like the others
but I know you already
hear it, the sound of a future

hitting the bottom of the ocean,
an E string plucked by two hands
brushing under starlight. On the mountain, 

three-hundred miles from the sea,
each drop of water is already crawling 
upwards to air, and I am traveling down

with the tide, a splayed-leg child inching
deeper and deeper into a warm 
wave—skin raw and sanded,

newly alive by the current
of your fingers. We are impossible,
the bird who once loved a fish,

a pint glass holding 
a tsunami. Where would they live? 
Suspended between pines, 

in a rocking boat 
the same azure of your ocean
gaze, my cerulean yonder. 

When I am old I will still remember
the sun kissed pebble of your chest
through my probing, stockinged foot,

my name like a small wren 
springing happily, again 
and again from your mouth.

How I dipped my toes in you.
How I cupped your face in the arch
of my foot and pressed your head 

underwater, a bittersweet substitute 
for dropping my skin and drowning 
against you. This is the entire affair, 

is it not? That I did not want 
to flee your naming, the pleasure 
seeping across your features 

like a tide surrendering
on the shore. You remind me I once 
had flippers. Touch my scars, please

tell me you remember the flex 
of wings? Soon you will swim 
back to your unfettered home 

and I will be left here, fumbling to close 
the opening seam. Just know for the hours
we belonged to each other,

I wanted to stay right there
on the lip forever and never
crest over

Correspondence Between Blank Page and Tired Writer

Write what is alive for you

Nothing is alive.

Something must be alive for you

Define “alive.”

The space of heat and motion, the bursting, the blooming—

—Streptococcus and epstein barr are at it again like rabbits. All hours
of the day and night. Grinding in the throat. Up against the bladder.
All I hear is moaning…


—Wait. Rabbits are cute; they’re more like aphids. Quality source Answers.com says, “Each female [aphid] has approx. 41 offspring. During one summer,
there can be up to 1,560,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 aphids.”

Okay, find the sweet spot of that reproductive energy

Am I top, bottom, or
mattress? The weakest plant
of kale, arms cut like paper
snowflakes? Maybe a leaky boat,
rocking and shaking — each new
cargo pushing me deeper; amoebic
brine flooding every crack
and opening—

—Write towards the future you know is possible

No future feels possible
without the rising
seas. I live at the lip
of capsize.

Find the urgency, the words you will die not to speak

I will die one way
or the other, with or
without words. Find me
the sound that conjures
buckets—the wails that
could stun waves.

Then write the words that can soften your journey

Songs travel farthest underwater

We are almost finished. Write to define the shape of your loneliness. Fill the vacant cavity.

I am never
empty. I am never


  • Laura Adrienne Brady is a writer, educator, and singer-songwriter (known as Wren). Laura’s poems and essays have appeared in Brevity, EcoTheo Review, Cold Mountain Review, A Body You Talk To: An Anthology of Contemporary Disability, Seattle city buses, and elsewhere. Her most recent project, Pink Stone: Songs from Moose Lodge, is a folk album of original songs and an illustrated companion book of essays and photography. Supported by a 4Culture Art Projects Grant, the collection explores themes of illness, intimacy, and healing, set against the backdrop of Washington’s Methow Valley. Laura’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net, and she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University.

  • The Making of Books (stills) by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films 1947