Tending the Wasteland

I place the disability application in a ragged leather folder I found on the ground a year ago. I imagine lighting the papers on fire and burning every carefully placed word about all the things that are wrong with my brain. I spin around words like ability and disability. I don’t like any of them. We’re all limited. We all tremble and gasp and bleed, and eventually we all stop. And we’re all vast and wild and terrifyingly complex. I could create a whole identity in reaction to the thirty something year old recipient profiled in this folder. I could bang my fists, and insist I’m powerful and whole. And the system has no right to turn me into some trembling patient in need of help. Except I am. My hands do shake, and it feels like I am being torn apart when I walk down the street. There are so many things I cannot do. It’s not that I’m even sick exactly. I just have a sensitive brain in a razor-sharp world. And I won’t apologize for asking for help. I won’t feel ashamed about the fact that I take up too much space or too little. Yes, I am a patient. Which means I am exquisitely intimate with vulnerability. I’m grappling with my limits in the dark. And I don’t know how this undoing will unfold. 

You don’t get a medal when you walk through the wasteland with an open heart. And if you can’t get back to work, but you learn to live with tender tenacity, no one calls you a hero. I’m through with being a hero. I want to be human. I want to tremble and quake inside. I want to feel death provoke me into knowing life. I want to break and mend and burn. I want to tend this wasteland from within. Not because I’ve gotten over this quivering body, but because I’m descending deep inside. For everything I’ve lost is burning me. 


Carol’s Poetry Cavern
March 27, 2022

Carol Krause wrote this poem while she was grappling with a form of power that is born out of asking for help. Carol’s poetry has recently appeared in PRISM internationalMinola ReviewThe FiddleheadBest Small Fictions, and is forthcoming in Augur Magazine