Elegy • Poem

This is what agony wants … the chance to look away. ~ Michelle Ortega

  Elegy (this is what agony wants)

after “The Oriole,” by Jim Mitchell


Hardware to stabilize her spine. Medication to spark and soothe each body system. To quell pain. Tubes out of organs, to drain the waste. The couple in the pictures, young, holding each other, couldn’t have known. At 25, she can’t move too much unassisted, so he carries her to my treatment table. I prop her with pillows and blankets, she inhales long. I strain to understand what’s happened since I saw her last week. This is what agony wants: for my own pain to get in the way, for the chance to look away. But then he squeezes past us and takes hold of her foot; when she feels his touch, their eyes meet—for a few seconds they radiate levity, and I remember that stars keep the night sky from succumbing to total darkness.

Michelle Ortega

Michelle Ortega

Michelle is a speech-language pathologist in New Jersey. Her writing has been published online and in print, at Tweetspeak Poetry, Casual (an e-book), Tiferet Journal, Exit 13, Shrew LitMag, Contemporary Haibun Online, Snapdragon: A Journal of Healing, The Platform Review, and abroad in Horizon: The Haiku Anthology. Her chapbook, Don’t Ask Why, with Seven Kitchens Press, was published August, 2020, and her microchapbook, Tissue Memory, with Porkbelly Press  in 2021.

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Suffering & Joy

Invite a friend or family member to do a 16-Day Suffering & Joy discussion. Or use each quote as a journaling prompt. Each day, read the quote. Talk about it. Think about it. Write about it. Pray about it.

Patient Poets: Illness from Inside Out

Marilyn Chandler Mcentyre

Readers are invited to consider what caregivers and medical professionals may learn from poetry by patients. It offers reflections on poetry as a particularly apt vehicle for articulating the often isolating experiences of pain, fatigue, changed life rhythms, altered self-understanding, embarrassment, resistance, and acceptance.

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Poetry in a life with chronic illness.



Poetry invites us to notice and explore our world. We might echo the symptoms, confusion, loss, grief, and uncertainty of chronic pain and illness. We could collect and delight in special moments and small victories.  Perhaps we will discover God’s still small voice in brand new ways.


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