Taken from Latin origin (meaning "life"), VITA is a series of illustrations created for my senior exhibition project. Based on contemporary poetry written from the views of patients and their loved ones, these poems about living with disease and illness were interpreted into illustrations. My aim was to provide comfort and hope to others and inspire people to reach out to others that are struggling or in need.
BY SHARON OLDS
When I got to the airport I rushed up to the desk,
bought a ticket, ten minutes later
they told me the flight was cancelled, the doctors
had said my father would not live through the night
and the flight was cancelled. A young man
with a dark brown moustache told me
another airline had a nonstop
leaving in seven minutes. See that
elevator over there, well go
down to the first floor, make a right, you'll
see a yellow bus, get off at the
second Pan Am terminal, I
ran, I who have no sense of direction
raced exactly where he'd told me, a fish
slipping upstream deftly against
the flow of the river. I jumped off that bus with those
bags I had thrown everything into
in five minutes, and ran, the bags
wagged me from side to side as if
to prove I was under the claims of the material,
I ran up to a man with a flower on his breast,
I who always go to the end of the line, I said
Help me. He looked at my ticket, he said
Make a left and then a right, go up the moving stairs and then run. I lumbered up the moving stairs,
at the top I saw the corridor,
and then I took a deep breath, I said
goodbye to my body, goodbye to comfort,
I used my legs and heart as if I would
gladly use them up for this,
to touch him again in this life. I ran, and the
bags banged against me, wheeled and coursed
in skewed orbits, I have seen pictures of
women running, their belongings tied
in scarves grasped in their fists, I blessed my
long legs he gave me, my strong
heart I abandoned to its own purpose,
I ran to Gate 17 and they were
just lifting the thick white
lozenge of the door to fit it into
the socket of the plane. Like the one who is not
too rich, I turned sideways and
slipped through the needle's eye, and then
I walked down the aisle toward my father. The jet
was full, and people's hair was shining, they were
smiling, the interior of the plane was filled with a
mist of gold endorphin light,
I wept as people weep when they enter heaven,
in massive relief. We lifted up
gently from one tip of the continent
and did not stop until we set down lightly on the
other edge, I walked into his room
and watched his chest rise slowly
and sink again, all night
I watched him breathe.
BY SUSAN KELLY-DEWITT
When they cracked open your chest, parting
the flesh at the sternum and sawing
right through your ribs, we'd been married
only five weeks. I had not yet kissed
into memory those places they raided
to save your life. I could only wait
outside, in the public lobby
of private nightmares
while they pried you apart, stopped
your heart's beating, and iced you
down. For seven hours a machine
breathed for you, in and out. God,
seeing you naked in ICU minutes
after the surgery ... your torso swabbed
a hideous antiseptic yellow
around a raw black ladder of stitches
and dried blood. Still unconscious,
you did the death rattle on the gurney.
"His body is trying to warm itself up,"
they explained, to comfort me.
BY RAYMOND CARVER
No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”
BY CELIA GILBERT
the bones gleam
out of the dark.
like the ghost of a fern
in stones here
are spine and ribs.
of my daughter is
something is drinking her life up
there are islands shadowed
on her brain
white tides are washing
washing them out.
BY MARCIA LYNCH
We barter the difference
between black and gray.
“Surgery, radiation or
death,” you say and leave
the decision to me,
while I insist you are the gods
I believed in as a child.
I prayed you to pull magic
out of your black leather bags
to wave away the rattling
in my bones.
I accept your calling
my breast an orange peel,
let you lay hands on ths fruit
my mother said no man
must touch. In this disease
there is no sin.
If you lift the chill
that unravels my spine,
I will send you stars
from the Milky Way,
send them spinning down,
dancing a thousand-fold. Please
let me grow old.
The Persistence of Memory,
the Failure of Poetry
BY ROBERT PHILLPS
In the 1979, a New York high school
music student, Renee Katz, was pushed
in the path of a subway train.
The severed hand flutters
on the subway track,
like a moth. No-
it is what is is,
a severed hand.
It knows what it is.
And all the king’s doctors
and all the king’s surgeons
put hand and stump together
again. Fingers move,
somewhat. Blood circulates,
somewhat. “A miracle!” reporters
report. But it will only
scratch and claw, a mouse
behind the bedroom wall. We forget.
At four a.m. the hand
remembers: intricate musical
fingerings, the metallic
feel of a silver flute.
BY D. H. LAWRENCE
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.