After the calamity, revelation. That’s the standard formula for light flooding into a darkened room.
This post will be longer than the entirety of Stacy R. Nigliazzo’s “Harvesting Her Heart after the Accident”. In fact, it already is. This poem is a brief whisper that rattles, a storm and its calm, curled into one. Look at the way the poem, spare and situated in so much blank space, stretches horizontally. The effect is a sideways bleed. We feel not that we are sinking into the action of the poem, but that the narrative is unspooling, stretching wide across us. The title tells you what to expect: it promises calamity. More than that, it signals the action that happens after the great devastation: the gathering of what’s essential, of what’s still beating, when nothing else can be saved.
I don’t think I seek out many poems specific to medicine, but I love when work like this find me. That the piece becomes so incandescently speculative, in its final word, unmoors me totally. It’s hard to say how much time I’ve spent with this piece: the poem is shorter than every tweet I’ve sent this month, but the real estate it occupies in the part of my brain concerned with survival, with the human arts we messily perfect to protect ourselves? It hasn’t moved from the prime enclosure of my own speculation, my own creative need, since I encountered it.
Here, then, is the entirety of the poem: a surgeon, piercing the breastbone of a woman dying, or dead, reveals an emanation of light, “a fluttering– / a scatter of fireflies.” You must read it yourself, to feel the poem’s own instruments reaching into you for wonder, for the mining of your hope in hard circumstance, for the finding of the light’s glow.
Read “Harvesting Her Heart after the Accident” here.
Stacy R. Nigliazzo is an emergency room nurse. Her forthcoming collection, Sky the Oar, is available for pre-order from Press 53.
This is the sixteenth installment of Other Kinds of Men, a speculative poetry reader in honour of Ursula K. Le Guin. Speculative writing, which encompasses the major genres of mythology, fantasy and science fiction, has often given voice to the most relentless and ungovernable urgencies of this age, and any other. Le Guin understood this: that to write about dragons, ice worlds and other seeming oddities was, in fact, to write into the messy, riotous complexity of ourselves. Here’s to dragons, and here’s to Ursula.