11 November 2011

Death of a Twin

Today's prompt/form idea came from dVerse: Craft prose to poetry There are three steps.
1. Find a prose passage that seems poetic. You know you read some stuff that just sounds cool.
2. Break it up into more poetic lines and stanzas. Reformat it, basically.
3. Alter it to better fit your definition of poetry. A few options: even out rhyme, meter; more flowery words; clearer images.

I used a passage from Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which I copied below the poem. I loved reading that book. It's about a pair of twins born in Ethiopia, Shiva and Marion. Their parents were an Indian nun (who died in labor) and an English surgeon (who fled shortly after their birth). They were raised by two Indian doctors at a mission hospital. Very interesting story about love, medicine and family both chosen and natural.

Death of a Twin

His body was warm. 
He never took a breath 
His expression never changed. 

I felt his pulse,
regular for a full minute.
Then it paused,
as if the heart had just realized 
the lungs had quit. 
With a final throb, he was gone. 

Of all the pulse types, 
this was both the rarest 
and the most common.
Every pulse possesses
the potential to be absent. 

I closed my eyes and cradled him, 
his skull buttressed against mine.
I felt physically vulnerable
lying here next to him
in a way I hadn't known
when we were a continent apart.

With his death 
my biology was altered.
The heat was rapidly leaving his body. 

I lay there, my head against Shiva's, a finger resting on his carotid pulse. His body was warm. He never took a breath after the tube came out. His facial expression never changed. His pulse stayed regular for almost a minute, then it paused, as if it had just realized its lifelong partner-the lungs-had quit. His heart sped up, became faint, and then, with a final throb under my fingers, it was gone. I thought of Ghosh. Of all the pulse types, this was both the rarest and the most common, a Janus quality that every pulse possesses: the potential to be absent.
I closed my eyes and clung to Shiva. I cradled him, his skull buttressed against mine and now wet with my tears. I felt physically vulnerable in a way I'd never felt when we were a continent apart, as if with his death my own biology was now altered. The heat was rapidly leaving his body.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


  1. Enjoyed the text selection. I like how you focused on the essence of the original and at the end mirrored the content. Thanks for doing this challenge! (P.S. noticed that you are a biolgist and conservationalist -- thinking you might enjoy reading this Zumwalt poem: http://zumpoems.com/2011/07/25/better-than/)

  2. Every pulse possesses
    the potential to be absent...love this..great text you chose and not an easy topic but you handled this with great sensivity

  3. Really nice job, I like your version much better than the original passage. Very nicely done. Thanks

  4. Cello - thanks
    zum - thanks for the suggestion! the mirroring might be my favorite part.
    Caludia - the story is kinda sad, but beautiful. thank you
    Fred - Sometimes the essence of something is more easily understood when there are fewer words with more space around them, like highlighting the important parts.
    Laurie - nice to see you again

  5. This is an excellent bridge from the prose piece--faithful, yet somehow more as well. You flawlessly found the poetic touchstones and built your own poem on their fluent grace. Excellent writing, and thanks for the exposure to what looks like a fascinating book.

  6. Beautiful and painful. Thank you for sharing the pre-story, it made the poem that much richer for me.

  7. So beautiful. K.

  8. nice...for me that last bit, recognizing your body was altered as well...love that...you did really well with this..

    sorry i am so late...just getting in from my trip...

  9. hedgewitch - I'm glad you found it to be faithful. I did really want to highlight the original message. It was certainly an interesting and emotional book.

    Yousei - I thought the pre-story would be helpful. It was kind of hard to only include part of the story without ruining the book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    maniceaily - thanks!

    Brian - I like that part, too. It was maybe what made that passage stand out for me. I read this book months ago, but the prompt immediately brought this passage to mind. Thank you.

    And by the way, comments are always welcome regardless of time passed since posting. In fact, if you're bored or curious, I have over 100 more poems in this blog ;)