Veggie soup

peeling this sweet potato
i can smell the earth
i close my eyes and smile
then cry —

when did i get so removed
from the soil, the land
from simplicity —
the family garden
in grade school
my bare feet on warm dirt
i was so happy
there were carrots
and worms
and life
was carefree —

i finish making soup
do the chores
the day was busy
i am tired —
the nights
when there is time
enough leftover
to snuggle into bed
a little early & read
and i can keep
my eyes open
long enough for it —
this is heaven
simple, free, happy

—Terri Guillemets

Weighed down

the scale now shows me
one hundred sixty-eight
but in those simple digits
I see rejection and pain
sugar, laziness, exhaustion
hormones splayed out of whack
menopause ready to rumble
plaque buildup and repressions
anxiety, regret, some depression
the past, the future, sheer panic
tension, disoriented expectations
ice cream, sweet junk addictions
griefs, hurts, disappointments
bad habits, cliffs, fear, falling
the eating of all my emotions
gluttony and gorging ghosts
turbulent raging blood glucose
sleepless nights, too-busy days
nerves, toxins, worry, age
unwelcome rapid-fire change
lack of trying, trying too hard
loss of control, culinary excesses
no longer fitting into my dresses

—Terri Guillemets

Midlife midriff

Eating a lot of garbage and dessert-obsessive
for several months, I put on a few pounds
      — and more.

Waddling is hell, and fat is a problem for the heart
      — I’m hungry & in pain.

Waist weight is a cruel joke, and age is no help.

—Terri Guillemets

scrambled blackout poetry created from David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day, 2000


      “Having devoted the greater part of my life to visiting and studying the various Native Races of North and South America, and observing the healthy condition and physical perfection of those peoples in their primitive state, I believe I have discovered the cause of numerous health problems that exist in our civilized communities. I believe, and feel authorized to assert, that a great proportion of the diseases prematurely fatal to human life, as well as mental and physical deformities, and destruction of the teeth, are caused by abuse of the lungs, in the Mal-respiration of Sleep.

      “Quiet and natural sleep is the great physician and restorer of mankind; but the habit of sleeping with the mouth open is destructive to the human constitution. Man’s cares and fatigues of the day become a daily disease, for which quiet sleep is the cure; and the All-wise Creator has so constructed him that his breathing lungs support him through that sleep, like a perfect machine, regulating the digestion of the stomach and the circulation of the blood, and carrying repose and rest to the utmost extremity of every limb; and for the protection and healthy working of this machine through the hours of repose, He has formed him with nostrils intended for measuring and tempering the air that feeds this moving principle and fountain of life; and as the quieting and restoring influence of the lungs in natural repose is carried to every limb and every organ, so in unnatural and abused repose, do they send their complaints to the extremities of the system, in various diseases; and under continued abuse, fall to pieces themselves.

      “There is no animal in nature, excepting Man, that sleeps with the mouth open; and with mankind, I believe the habit, which is not natural, is generally confined to civilized communities, where he is nurtured and raised amidst enervating luxuries and unnatural warmth, where the habit is easily contracted, and in sudden changes of temperature, even in his own house. Through the enjoyment of his artificial comforts and pleasures, he is destroying his teeth, his good looks, and often his life, in the thoughtless departure from natural simplicities and instincts. Man, who suffers under many ills in life, should take care that his lungs and teeth, however much abused during the day, should at least be treated with kindness during the night. Breathing should be done as Nature designed it, through the nose.

      “There is no perfect sleep for man or brute, with the mouth open. When you close your eyes to sleep, close your mouth too, only to be opened after your eyes and ears in the morning. Though the majority of civilized people are more or less addicted to the habit of sleeping with the mouth open, few will admit that they are subject to it. They go to sleep and awake, with their mouths shut, not knowing that the insidious enemy, like the deadly Vampire that imperceptibly sucks the blood, gently steals upon them in their sleep and does its work of death whilst they are unconscious of the evil. Every physician should advise his patients, and every school its pupils, and every hospital, regiment, nursery, and mother should attempt to stop this unnatural and dangerous habit.

      “If I were to endeavour to bequeath to posterity the most important Motto which human language can convey, it should be in three words:  Shut—your—mouth.”

—George Catlin, The Breath of Life and Shut Your Mouth, 1860s, abridged

In a hospital

In a hospital
it’s difficult to listen
to sad, scary sounds
      “code blue” on intercoms
      wailing, grieving families
      beep-beep-beep of machines —
But if you listen
more carefully
you can hear
      the sound of hope
      of healing, love, and support
      caring, confident voices
      of nurses and doctors and staff
      the din and melodies of
      our imperfect and indispensable
      healthcare plexus at work

—Terri Guillemets