enter the disruption /
Petals of the many-sided tree and inside corners arise from tears that occur in the broken layer, allowing blood under flatline pressure to enter the wall of the vessel and form a tinted glass. Disruption of the jellyroll can activate maps and the cornered cascade, leading to wall formation and bright silver.
Vancouver writer Elee Kraljii Gardiner’s second full-length poetry title is Trauma Head (Vancouver BC: Anvil Press, 2018), furthering the work she gathered last year in a self-published chapbook with the same name. As the back cover to the new collection reads: “In 2012, poet Elee Kraljii Gardiner precipitously lost feeling in, and use of, her left side. The mini-stroke passed quickly but was symptomatic of something larger: a tear in the lining of an artery that opened an examination of mortality and crisis. This long-poem memoir tracks the author’s experiences with un/wellness and un/re-familiarity with herself.” The earlier version, the chapbook-sized TRAUMA HEAD (Otter Press, 2017; second printing, 2018) [see my notes on such here] was a publication set in a file-folder of collaged text and images around and through brain scans, injury, trauma and healing; there was something of the project, even then, that felt unfinished, as though it were part of some as-yet-unrealized larger project. As she wrote of the chapbook at the time:
Trauma Head is a collection of poems and concrete interventions in the medical file. In fact, the binding IS a medical file.
I used the graphs, charts, reports and info from my treatment for vertebral artery dissection and stroke as one part of the content. The other is the poems, explorations and word games that are related to the events in Tunica Intima but not suited to the more formal long poem format.
This is the “b-side” of the album.
Lately, it has been satisfying to make things with my hands. Trauma Head is all cut-and-paste, produced entirely on photocopiers with Sharpies, double-sided tape, transparencies, and scissors. I liked the tension between the reproduced high tech MRI scans and the analog process. You’ll notice my slanted scissor skills, the gaps between paste jobs. More than intentional this is unavoidable, and a reminder that no matter how machine-driven we become we remain softly human.
Ultimately, what does all the advanced technological testing reveal? How advanced are we? What can we know without touching?
Trauma Head is a collection of fragments, files, bursts and medical records composed as a sequence of dislocations attempting to ground and connect themselves, seeking out the shards and scattered threads into something that might cohere into a form enough to continue breathing. There is such a remarkable and gymnastic display of sound and fracture, collision and stutter throughout her text, a meditative scatter of synapses attempting to move at high speed (even to the point of overlapping, becoming muddied), threading around and across a trauma, and towards comprehension, and eventual recovery. She writes of fear, and possibility; she writes of a struggle to survive, and even speak, pushing through her recovery, both to achieve it and to understand it, and to communicate the new shape of her gestures. “[P]ain wears me,” she writes, further into the collection, continuing: “is the tide / chewing cliff face / pain wears me // this injury tumbles me in the chop / is the tide // chewing cliff face / any hiatus pain wears me // in the repetition of panic / this injury tumbles me in the chop / is the tide [.]”
Strange how fast we turn corners, start feeling better and forget what we were. For instance, today I biked, broke the glinting spider webs barring the path through the bushes. It is fall, hot and gold, two years gone / gained and I am only aware of this anniversary because of the cycle of time / weather. I went down to the river where the heat coaxed thick, wet fog up from the water. It spurned over the bank as I straddled the bike. I stood still to saturate my lungs with coolness. A seal below me held its silent, compact head above dark water; it breathed with me, its husky exhales a touch. We were waiting for something—the tugboat to pass, the fog to lift. Everything muted gentle as the seal’s whiteless eyes. Spoonful by spoonful each day I taste the river, the salt, clouds, all the recipes of blood. (“Prognosis”)