Monday, January 13, 2020

Poem366: “Love Me, Anyway” by Minadora Macheret



Love Me, Anyway by Minadora Macheret

Love Me, Anyway by Minadora Macheret, Cincinnati, Ohio: Porkbelly Press, 2018

I know several people who contend with PCOS — polycystic ovary syndrome — and I know, too, that they suffer in myriad ways from the condition, with dangerously heavy periods and physical manifestations, like excessive hair growth, that can make them feel ashamed and exposed.

Until reading Minadora Macheret’s explosive chapbook on the subject—Love Me, Anyway, from Porkbelly Press—I didn’t fully understand the disease. I still don’t, for that matter, but I’ve come closer, and I hold those who suffer from it in the light as Macheret brings me face to face with the burden they carry.

Coupled with the trauma of disease is that of losing the mother, a subject I became too familiar with last week, on hearing that my own mother had passed away. This was a hard collection to read, but it is good to have company in grief—to sit shiva with a fellow poet who has a more advanced understanding of that kind of loss, thanks to the passage of time and the hard focus of poetry.

Macheret’s poems are forthright and honest, and they offer a frank glimpse into the life of one who contends with this disease. “Woman with PCOS Describes Aversion to Tests” provides one such moment, as the speaker describes nurses who “stick needle after needle / into scarred flesh,” until she feels “there is no blood left”:

There never is an answer
just test the body, so the doctors know
it’s still living.

She concludes that her heart beats irregularly, and “as long as it doesn’t stop, “I’ll be fine—.” It’s haunting to think of all of the people who suffer with this condition, alone in the phlebotomist’s chair that they have occupied so many times before. I wonder if it’s a comfort to some, having a book that sees them there, and having readers who know them as they haven’t before.

It looks to me from the medical writing on the subject that PCOS can mean explosively heavy, painful periods or periods that are missed altogether. The prose poem “Body of Nothing (Not Even Blood)” seems to explore this, with its haunting opening sentence: “Settle in beautiful body, settle in before the night takes you.” It then offers a painful, poetic view of what happens in the reproductive organs (“Silence the ovaries, choke on pearls”), before concluding, “The cycles have stopped. Somewhere, a clock hand lingers between today and tomorrow.” Macheret seems to be addressing the frustration of not knowing what your body plans to do and when it’s going to do it.

I appreciate the tenderness the poet offers herself in a world that can be far less loving, as in “The First Time PCOS Spoke.” Writes Macheret,

Please gentle the body—I
thicken it with sleep.
When you slow down,
you will be
a woman,
again.

I really appreciate that line break in the first of the quoted set above. “Gentle the body—I” suggests that the body is the self, though so much of our time is spent trying to rise above it. On the one hand we view our body as a flesh-sleeve, something we ultimately pull ourselves out of, but then on the other, this body is our precious vessel, the only thing we can truly be said to own.

My thoughts about ownership here transport me instantly to the most moving part of this powerful chapbook, found in “To the Bearded Lady I Am (Age 26),” which begins with the speaker with tweezers in front of the mirror. In this clear-eyed view of how the speaker contends with the preponderance of hair that PCOS brings, she ends with an image: “I’m like a teacup left out, dust covered, a chip in my side.” There is a beautiful rhythm to that sentence, and a moving view into the writer’s lived experience. It takes my breath away.

I certainly recommend this small powerhouse of a book, and I look forward to reading more by this poet.

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