How Carolyn Welch's poem "Relapse" reflects on America's opioid crisis by Angelica Recierdo

Carolyn Welch’s poem “Relapse” from Intima’s Spring 2018 issue speaks deafening volumes of how addiction can be in every corner of mundane family and home life. Especially in the context of America’s current opioid crisis, her poem does the hard work of showing the pain felt by parents in towns all over the country who have to make painful decisions in the hopes of their child’s recovery.

In the poem, Welch contrasts the possibility of relapse with the reliability of garden herbs and vegetables, a beautifully heartbreaking way to describe the temporality of uncertainty and despair. She knows the peppers and basil will return every summer, but cannot say the same about her son. As readers, we are Imagining her looking at her garden while her son makes sobbing pleas to go home, a feeling that is at once cruel and ironic. We deeply understand her situation: To be surrounded by life and growth except for the kind (the life and growth of her son) she so desperately wishes for.

This tiny poem is packed with effective imagery. Ending with the image of the hummingbird veering close and back and again while on the phone with the doctor determining the fate of her son is a subtle glimpse into her internal torture. The poet’s professional background as a PICU nurse and family nurse practitioner is evident in the careful and attentive language of this devastating poem.


Angelica Recierdo, who is on the Editorial Board of  Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine , is a graduate student in Columbia University's Narrative Medicine program. Her essay “ Coming Out of the Medical Closet ” appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of  Intima .

Angelica Recierdo, who is on the Editorial Board of Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, is a graduate student in Columbia University's Narrative Medicine program. Her essay “Coming Out of the Medical Closet” appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Intima.

ANGELICA RECIERDO is a graduate student in Columbia University's Narrative Medicine program. She also works as a Clinical Content Editor at Doximity in San Francisco, CA. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northeastern University and was a Global Health Corps Fellow in 2016-17. She has worked at the intersection of health and writing/communications, specifically in the fields of health care innovation, health equity, and racial justice. Angelica is a creative writer, and her work can be found in Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Literary Orphans, HalfwayDownTheStairs, and The Huntington News, among others.