HealthLink On Air

A visit from the healing muse: ‘If I Could Help’, and ‘Kokua’

Deirdre Neilen, PhDDeirdre Neilen, PhD shares a selection from Upstate’s literary journal, “The Healing Muse” every Sunday on HealthLink on Air. She edits the annual publication featuring fiction, poetry, essays and visual art focused on themes of medicine, illness, disability and healing.

Order your copy of “The Healing Muse” today!


If I Could Help, by Rae Spencer

I would, if I could
Tuck a yellow rose root
Between fall and summer
And call it winter
            With the understanding
            That it is alive
            And needs only dirt
            Water and sun
                        To sprout full into spring

I would, if it might help
Bring you a click-beetle
To leap from your hand
With a hard shell snap

Or teach your thumb wisdom
With which to recognize
Opossum and raccoon
From only their tracks in the mud

I could find the robin’s cup-nest
Three blue eggs rocking
And make you watch
As the eggs turn into chicks

Or show you a forest
Where bark peeled trees
Carry bear messages
In a thin stream of sap

You might find a velvet cuff
From the stag’s new antler
Or last year’s gnawed discard
Marked by the fox, the sly bone-eater

Come with me
I’ll show you these things
And dig a yellow rose root
To tuck into your hand
            We will name it winter
            And you will stay until spring
            To see it sprout
            To understand that it is alive
                        And so are you


Kokua, by KH Solomon

One calls it the territory no one wants to enter;
another the roller coaster no one wants to ride;

you the membership no one wants to hold
in the society no one wants to join.

No one? I’m one.
Not to be exiled from you,

not to travel apart, not to be relegated
to a company not yours—for this I would enlist

in the fellowship of the unwilling,
ride its unsteady transport over hostile terrain

wherever it goes.
Of course it’s irrational,

foolhardy. But this isn’t my head talking
or even my heart hoping. I only know

when they scoped up my inside, when they
carved on my outside looking for telltale signs

and reported, we found nothing; my head answered,
good; my heart replied fine; but something in me

took the news badly, hearing: passport denied;
ticket refused; this club is closed to your kind.

Dearest explorer, rider, member perforce,
I can try to explain:

Kokua means helper.
But in a far away place, in a long ago time,

it meant so much more. And something in me
says, I would go kokua for you, journey with you,

ride waves with you up and down to Kalaupapa


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