Literary Obscurity

like razor blades, sharp, and flexible
at the crux of human imagining

the premise of distant epiphany
a selection of intriguing dentures

finding the words to express the chaos
plain ridicule, the revelation of nonsense

the predicament of others, of illness
of old books, the sheen of popular icons

ghosts, whispers, the fly-leaves
and the shadow of guarded, glistening girth

the power and implication of expertise
of the experience of sick people

negative introspect moved to action
in narrative ethics, the work and the glares

of medicine, the metaphorical richness
as graceful as stories of silkiness

Summer 2005 Issue

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Editor's Note


SNR's Writers


Norman Mancini, Jr.

Your father only picked up one hitchhiker in his life--
and it was enough; not like me, I’d hitched around
a lot, back before I met him, but he never even tried
a sip of beer until his twenty-first birthday and then
found out he was allergic. So it was not typical at all

for him to stop on our way back from internship interviews
in Philadelphia but he did, I guess the guy just looked
too perfect standing with a little square suitcase outside
the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop with a neat little jacket and
short hair cut and a nicely lettered sign, “Boston,” just some

serviceman going home on leave, and it was almos
Thanksgiving and in 1979 we felt a certain guilt about
not being drafted and the war so I climbed into the back
being thoughtful I thought and besides maybe I could
stretch out and sleep and leave the two guys to talk.

Didn’t turn out that way. Norman did all the talking.
That was his name. Norman Mancini, Junior. He’d been
a foster child all his life but he knew he had to have
had a father, there had to have been a Norman Mancini, Senior,
and that was his life’s goal, to find his father, and he had

pretty much covered the country by age twenty-two,
hitching and taking buses, checking phone books and even
the occasional cemetery where Manicini seemed a possibility;
he’d had some leads, some maybe close contacts here and there,
a cousin perhaps, a rumor of a great-uncle, but he was going

back near Boston where there was a foster family had
been good to him. Oh, he talked. It had been a journey.
And I, in the back seat, could be the shadow therapist,
just a word or two and I would start the whole flow going,
“Scared?” “Oh, I been so scared I lay three days in a ditch

in my own, pardon the word here, shit, because to show
myself. . .” “Voices?” “Oh yes, voices, music, great trumpets,
brass wings beating, ice bells, whispers from the sky. . .”
“Visions?” “Yes, yes, the city, Vertical Impressions, here
now, you can see them, you are an artist, listen, falling,

falling. . .” I made my diagnosis, though this was not
my field. Your father gripped the wheel white handed.
We drove straight through. How to end it? But he gave
the answer, quieting, “If you don’t mind, in the city,
could you take me to the Greyhound Station? I don’t want

you to think bad of me but it is what I do, when I haven’t
got money--I’m not a faggot–I like women, but I go there
and I let men pick me up. Sometimes they beat me afterwards,
sometimes I rob them, just a little, a few dollars or a cuff-link,
just enough for a meal, and sometimes they let me stay

a few days, feed me, play music for me, give me some warm
clothes.” We left him off in that thin jacket, November,
1979. We began to hear about Kaposi’s sarcoma, unusual
infections; in 1980 your father assisted at some biopsies for
pneumocystis. 20 years. I wonder if he found his father’s grave.

She can look pretty
good with clothes on

How secure I was
in my pretty body
though I didn’t see it:
that smooth skin, brown in the summer,
the surprise of tan lines in December;
its dear little flaws, the tiny red cross
of a cherry angioma over my heart,
the freckles in my eyes, the thin white lines
of scars on the back of each hand.

Now I turn away.
The horror of myself in a mirror.
Fool that I was to believe others
saw beauty. Now to know.
Let myself go.

Kelly Jean White, M.D., is the mother of three, a Quaker, an inner city pediatrician for more than twenty years, collector of stray animals and seeker after Buddha and nature. She has published two full-length poetry collections, The Patient Presents and Late (The People's Press). She also has two chapbooks: I am going to walk toward the sanctuary (Via Dolorosa Press) and Against Medical Advice (Pudding House). A year ago, she promised more work. Here's some of it.

Copyright 2005, Kelly Jean White, M.D. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.