No Technological Devices Will Assist
(listen to the poem, read by the author)
No wheelchair ramp, no braces,
no cane, walker or interpreter,
no special van, door knobs,
no thirty-six inch wide doors
will serve to give me access.
No accommodation will change the facts. There’s
nothing you, or I, medicine or technology,
nothing even love, can do.
Not chemotherapy, or radiation, not a pill,
a treatment, not even an infusion of immune
globulin will replace the cellular immunity,
the Natural Killer cells, the monocytes,
lymphocytes, that are deficient, the Primary
Immune Deficiency that makes human interaction
the most virally-laden, life-threatening experience,
that keeps me infected, isolated, alone, left out,
misunderstood, and ill.
Chronic illness may be invisible. No, I don’t
smoke or drink. I’m not obese. I exercise, eat
a healthy diet, take vitamins, am disciplined,
motivated, keep a schedule.
You probably never heard of my disease. It’s not
poster-worthy. It’s genetic. It’s become worse,
it’s not what I counted on. I haven’t become
used to it. And today I’m angry about it.
(listen to the poem, read by the author)
~ 1 ~
It started coming out in handfuls.
Three months after my hospitalization.
Telogen Effluvium was the diagnosis.
Hair was everywhere, covering my coat,
back of the car seat, shower drain,
First it was the long hairs. From nipple length
to collar bone in three weeks. Then, smaller pieces.
It thinned all over. Barrettes wouldn’t stay in,
wouldn’t even make a pony tail. Limp and lifeless,
it lost its luster, it’s motion. Unrecognizable
as my own, it was wispy, thin, receding, pathetic.
Hair accessories and ornaments lay obsolete
in the top drawer of my dressing table—bobby pins,
hair pins and clips of plastic, leather, ivory, wood,
brass and silver. There was no hair left to tie back,
clamp or clump. No more braids, no French twist,
no messy bun or pony tail. No options left
but a hat or scarf.
Scrapbook photos, previous years, show my hair long
or pixie cut, braided for summer camp or swimming,
sporting headbands in various sizes, thicknesses and
colors. Hair flaunting Easter Bonnets, rag curlers,
up in orange juice rollers. Frizzed hippy hair, Twiggy cut,
hair with bandanas, buzz-cut dyke hair. Hair swept up
for formal occasions, pulled back in a ballet bun, hair
parted on the left, parted in the center, hair to my waist—
all unavailable with my new version of hair.
Hair loss, whether by chemo or sepsis, feels the same.
But hair loss from Telogen Effluvium happens without
heroism, camaraderie, or pink ribboned support.
I miss my hair. Along with so much else
~ 2 ~
I look in the mirror while flossing my teeth.
I’m shocked at the image. Strange, not me.
I get dressed for the day. Earrings the wrong
length, hats no longer fit. From the back,
I look like a stranger. Nothing is familiar.
I prepare to meet someone new, someone
who didn’t know me before I lost my hair.
I want to show them a previous photograph,
say, “See, this is the real me, this is what
I really look like.” But it isn’t what I look like,
now. And I can’t, in any socially correct way,
pull that off, gracefully. It’s not like a new pair
of glasses or a Total Makeover.
People tell me my hair looks fine. I should
accept myself as I am, now. But this isn’t me.
There is no hair to warm my scalp. My head
is cold. The style doesn’t feel like me, presents
a different person than I am, or, than I was.
I select several yards of colorful fabric to wrap
around my head. But headscarves aren’t me,
either. They’re complicated, they shift and
slide off. They itch.
I do not know where this is heading, or, what is next.
About the Author
Marilyn McVicker had her first poem published in 1980. Her poetry has most recently been published in Kakalak, Earth’s Daughters, Front Porch Review, Red Clay Review, The Prompt, several anthologies, and other publications. She has published articles and essays, a non-fiction book, Sauna Detoxification Therapy, with McFarland & Co., in 1997, and a poetry chapbook, Some Shimmer of You, with Finishing Line Press, in 2014. She has read her poetry at Western Carolina University’s Literary Festival, the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, Malaprop’s Bookstore, local community colleges, libraries, and other venues. She is a member of the North Carolina Poetry Society, and mentored under Dr. Richard Chess through their Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series, in 2012. She continues to work with Pat Riviere-Seel, past president of the NCPS, and author of three poetry collections. Marilyn’s fascination with words and self-expression stems from her previous career as a solo flutist and music educator. She retired to a remote cove in the rural mountains of western North Carolina in 1997.