In Their Own Words

Monica Fambrough on “Lucidity”


Is that my mind
or a bug crawling
down the leg
of the table

Sliding down
like a Percocet
a nurse pushes
to me across
a tray

She always
has a packet
of saltines
or she doesn’t
and you puke your guts
out an hour

we will
watch the sun
set fire to the hair
of a woodpecker
turning his silhouette
to ash
from our

Or oh
he’s just
gone around
the back
of the tree
we are all
still here

Blue Transfer (Oversound, 2020). Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

On “Lucidity”

In 2017 (after this poem was written), I was able to experience the “totality” of the solar eclipse in the mountains of North Georgia. I remember how eerily still the darkness was, as the sky darkened to purple and the crickets chirped. Like many people, my mind immediately turned to what this must have felt like to my prehistoric ancestors, who had no scientific explanation for it and might have felt the world was ending. Then suddenly, the sun returned. The sky was blue again.

“Lucidity” is not about loss. But it is about confusion, fear, and survival. When you are trapped, in your house, in a hospital, in a sick body, the point of release is the point at which everything is alight. Small things have a new intensity. Sometimes there is clarity, sometimes more murk. This poem is written from that moment, just after a bleakness: the first big intake of breath. It is coming up for air. Time is shifty, as the speaker insists on the present, but it contains a sort of flash-forward nestled in a flashback. It seemed like the right poem for the moment we are collectively in. We are all wondering when this will be over, and how we will feel when it is.

This poem is a difficult read for me now, as it ends with a kind of hopefulness I know is false. The woodpecker’s eclipse is not deadly; a virus is. We know not everyone survives. We all want to be here still, but we are tired of being still. “Lucidity” also points out the folly of trying to ascribe meaning to an experience you can’t, and weren’t meant to, understand. Your perception is not trustworthy. The woodpecker was never on fire, but its disappearance is what allows us to notice that something has changed. We are newly aware of the continuous present, breathing the impossibly thin air between despair and gratitude.

More In Their Own Words

Eleanor Boudreau on “Scatter Plot”

Before I published a book of poetry, I was a disembodied voice. For about four years, I worked as a radio reporter for the NPR member-station in Memphis, WKNO-FM. I got the job while an intern at NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. My last day of work in D.C. was Friday, September 18, 2009. My first day of work in Memphis was Monday, September 21. Over the weekend, I drove across country with my belongings and my parents stuffed into my Saturn Ion. I was 25. Never taking a pause seemed like good planning to me.

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