They said a shadow,
and she pictured a black bruise,
a gothic rose blooming, but the stain
on the left lung was white, a milky sheen
in the empty space of breath.
The x-ray made delicate the harsh
gasps that brought her to Emergency.
There’s no money, no insurance,
so no plan, no diagnosis, just the image –
two spacious cosmoses,
one ghostly clot of ruin.
Driving home the old question
burned in her like radium: what to do
with this mouthful of stars
and this bellyful of earth?

Amanda Leigh Rogers lives in Abington, Pennsylvania with her husband and three sons and teaches at Bryn Athyn College. She loves poetry as a kind of holy communion, binding reader and writer to each other, and connecting inner and outer worlds. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and received the Hopwood Award for major poetry. Her work has recently appeared in The Baltimore Review, Contrary Magazine, The Chyrsalis Reader, Other Poetry, and The Mindful Word.

"The Stain" describes one chapter of a friend's experience trying to navigate illness with no money or insurance. I always feel uneasy writing about other people's lives, though I do it a lot.  It is easy to transgress, to project onto someone else's story one's own interpretations. In fact, that's basically the whole reason to write such a poem.  I try to be sensitive, to write with pure motives, and hope that transforming another's experience into a poem can be a gift as well as a transgression.  I've always thought there is something beautiful about x-rays, the translucent white shapes against the glossy black, the individual stripped of all the things we recognize them by -- personality, voice, shape, gesture, facial features, hair -- and presented in a dreamy abstractness.  In this poem  I was interested in the contrast between the beauty and mystery of the x-ray image and the scarier mystery of death and illness.  As for the question at the end of the poem-- well, that is the question that keeps asking itself through all of us beautiful mortals, isn't it?




Copyright 2009