As I read the fall literature in Intima, one that I kept coming back to was “Needle” by Sara Backer. I love her poem because it shows that for every question there are two answers. For every wrong a needle does, there is also a lifesaving right: “A needle in the lobe pierces your ear with gold / A needle through your ear drum silences the world.” And onward into all the many split ways a needle acts upon the body. The body always seems to have two answers. Childbirth without anesthesia hurts inarticulately deeply, yet it connects a woman to all the women in history who have experienced that same pain. Cancer kills, yet it offers many of its victims a new lease on life.
The poem I wrote for this issue, “The Faithful,” came directly out of a conversation I had with a retired nurse: her story is the story in my poem. She risked her life to put an IV in somebody else’s son, and when that son’s mother locked her out of the house when gang violence threatened her life, all she could think was of her own sons at home—and the way she rescued herself, like a fairy tale heroine bravely outwitting the wolves that wanted to harm her, was by appealing to the gang leader’s love for his daughter. Isn’t this how life works? What we risk relates to what we most value; what saves us is the same thing that gets us into trouble. Sara Backer’s poem seems to speak to this sharp edge.
Elisabeth Sharp McKetta teaches writing for Harvard Extension School and is the founder of Poetry for Strangers and the author of two books, The Creative Year: 52 Workshops for Writers and The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell. Her PhD (Univ. Texas 2009) focused on the intersections between fairy tales and autobiography. This is her second piece published in the Intima; her first piece ("A Bird in the Hand") was co-written with her college roommate Dr. Yo-El Ju. McKetta lives in Boise with her family. www.elisabethsharpmcketta.com
© 2016 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine