In my Poetry Corner September 2013, I feature Part II of the three-part poem “When the Pain Stopped” by American poet, Angela Consolo Mankiewicz. Be forewarned. Angela has a way of getting under our skin. The images she conjures may be unsettling.
My Haiku poem “Did You Cry Out?” in memory of Trayvon Martin was inspired by a line in Angela’s poem. During the attack that ended his life, cries for help are audible in the background of the audio recording of the 9-1-1 call. The identity of the person yelling was never verified during his killer’s trial.
When I first read Angela’s chapbook, An Eye, published in 2006, I connected immediately with her poetry. In her long narrative poem, “Caiti,” she does not shy away from the raw, ugly emotions of a friend’s struggles with a daughter on crack.
Do you remember that day in September,
a couple of years ago?
4 months after you filled your belly
with pills, 6 months after you rid it
of a 2nd 5-monthold fetus, 2 years after you first
threatened your mother with murder,
4 years after you thrashed through the house,
slamming doors and crashing windows,
rolling into a ball of flailing arms and legs,
begging her to stop the pain sucking you into a whirlwind
she couldn’t pull you out of, anymore?
In Wired, published in 2001, her poem “Going Home Alone” poked at my open wound caused by a mother who clung to past hurts. Better for me to stay away and avoid a bitter tongue lashing.
You can always go home again,
you can’t not go home again
and again and again and again.
The trick is to stop
to pull out that sign
the one that says ENOUGH
Angela’s cancer poems tell other stories of her life while facing and beating cancer. She doesn’t hide behind tales of heroism. My favorite cancer poem is “Who Am I To Cry” from As If, published in 2008, and featured in my Poetry Corner June 2011. We know that our pain is nothing when compared to the sufferings of others in more dire conditions. But it’s our pain, our life. It’s okay for us to cry.
Her collection, Cancer Poems, published in 1995, is filled with angst in the face of her husband’s cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation treatment. Their love for each other is evident in every poem. In “August 26: Not Yet Grief,” her anguish seeps from the page.
Who do I run to if not to you? Bearing
this doom that is not yet grief, rumbling
through my body. Who, if not you, who have loved me
and held me and heard me; you, who assuage the pains
and anguish of being alive, you, who have given me
courage to face everything but this.
When the pains stop and we face death, what matters more than having loved and being loved?