Nobody Trained Her to Surf on Sand

It felt like sinking in quicksand,
swirling and curling with currents

as the hourglass funneled. Whipped
right then flung back left, tossed

upside-down then right-side up. She
was disoriented; spinning; falling

somewhere sight unseen she wondered
if ground would ever find her feet.

Yet somewhere deep inside she knew
that even if it couldn’t, she’d do

what she could…she’d trade guilt
for grace ‘n learn to surf on sand.

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

This woman was a medical educator, and had two teenagers who were attending school from home. She faced incredible health challenges in 2020, unrelated to COVID-19. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and had reconstructive surgery, and she was also diagnosed with three chronic medical conditions. “They’re not fatal, but they’re not going away,” she said. “There is no space for me to fully process everything I’ve gone through. And it’s hard not to feel guilty. How dare I feel sorry for myself, complain, or do anything, when there are people dying?” She also wondered about the collateral damage yet to come after COVID, both of her not being able to process her own grief during this time, and also of an entire cohort of medical students who had to learn under these conditions. “Everything else just keeps moving, despite COVID. We have to get these students graduated on time,” she said, “but how do you keep moving when you can never get a foothold?” She wanted the poem to remind her that it was ok she was struggling with all of these things, even though it was amidst a pandemic.

Interviewee: Anonymous, Educator
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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