I’m reviewing a left ventriculography
from a man with chest pain, MI ruled out,
his wife dead for a post-crash hour.
The scan shows his cardiac apex
bulging with each beat, shaped
like a takotsubo, an octopus trap
a Japanese cardiologist recalled
from his childhood fishing village,
the scan just another broken heart’s
beaten down story of futility and resilience.
And I will say, “I am sorry for your loss,”
explain the image, reassure him
his heart muscle will recover in a week,
all the time wishing I could hug him
with eight strong arms instead of two.
— Richard Berlin
I am enrolled in a MOOC, Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing — I couldn't know if its focus would be more reading or wellbeing.
Week 1 was a lot of poetry, and the instructors' taste in poetry is rather old and very English, quite unlike my preferred variety. Poetry as stress management, as a means to access stillness. Slowing down.
Some great video interviews, including with Ben Okri, who made a great observation about how we reach for old favourites in times of emotional need — it's not just a comfort blanket, it's the way we know how to access an interior life.
Week 2 covered that classic mental illness, heartbreak (hence the poem above). And Jane Austen (ugh).
We left off with the question: Can literature be harmful?
(Of course! It can send people to prison, incite revolution. It can inspire wives to leave their husbands. They had to stage an intervention for Don Quixote.)