Locked In

A photograph of a patient lying still upon a hospital bed. The patient is alone and appears to be contemplative.

One of the blogs I follow is KK’s Yard Sale of Thoughts, and the other day she posted a response to a prompt. I didn’t take part in the prompt, it seemed to be a “serious poet’s” prompt and that’s about the last way I would describe myself, but it was a thoughtful concept.

They started with an established, published poem. I’m not sure if it specifically had to be a poem, but that’s what KK chose. And just to use that as the inspiration for something of their own. Again, not sure if the output was specified, but she wrote a poem. The poem she chose as her inspiration was written by Walt Whitman.

I’m not very good on literature. I have maybe had a stable of authors like Orwell or Dumas or Dostoyevsky, and I’ve read pretty much everything they wrote. But there are also many authors I don’t know, but feel they might have been rewarding. Whitman falls into that category. KK provided a link to the poem so I took the opportunity. I’ll put the link at the base of my post – it’s a lovely poem but beware, it is a fifteen-minute read.

It’s basically praising the human body. I’m sure I caught “sacred” in there, think I caught “reverence”, so you get the picture. It is certainly reverential.

But I don’t agree. Just for the hell of it, I came up with a response of my own.

Their crumpled bodies, once so strong,
Now shrivelled up in fear,
I pass among their shellshocked souls,
And grieve with hidden tears.

My eyes look on a lady,
At one time, better bred,
Reliant on her husband,
She cannot leave her bed.

“She does herself no favours”,
Says doctor with blank stare,
In hospital, discharged herself,
The clatter could not bear.

He walks with drunken stagger,
His neighbours point and gawk,
But little do they know the man
Has not long learned to walk.

No answer from the old man,
His silence is devout,
But clearly he is lucid,
His words just won’t spill out.

We hail our modern treatments,
Survival rates the drive,
We miracles of science,
Still breathing, yet deprived.

We blindly fund our research,
I pain to reconcile,
Just how much function must we lose,
Before life’s not worthwhile?

This is just my experience, visiting stroke survivors on the hospital ward. All of these people I met; one of them is me. It’s one of the things that bugs me, that a doctor will see a heap-of-jelly stroke survivor, possibly unable to look after themselves, possibly unable to speak, and hail it as a success. I become incredibly sad that once-proud, strong, athletic people are left with bodies that fail them, kept breathing by medication.

I’m very clear that by the time all this happens, we have discovered our finity, so to try to turn that into something infinite, I think, is just cruel.

Whitman’s original:

Author: Mister Bump UK

Designed/developed large IT systems, interrupted by a stroke in 2016, aged 48. Now mix development of health-related software with voluntary work and writing. Married, with an estranged daughter.

30 thoughts on “Locked In”

  1. This response is powerful. There seem to be so many great minds that do great things despite the body’s limitations or brokenness, I would hardly pretend to understand the suffering of freedoms lost by the body’s limits, but I think there is still great strength of spirit, will, and the ability to live in fullness even when the body is a burden. Infinity in imagination and ingenuity, perhaps? Will continue to contemplate all that is said in these lines.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Speaking personally, at one stage my mind was all I had. I’m thankful now that I can get about but I’m very good at remembering feelings, and remember that feeling of helplessness. The other big feeling was of regret, just that I might have valued my physical ability more. I did a fair amount, especially cycling, but there could always have been more.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I truly hope that even more freedoms open up in different ways, so that you can do more in this lifetime then what you can even imagine right now. I have not been physically injured as you, but I have been helpless, in another way. I’ve had to rely on my mind to make it through. But, the memories are still there as well. We can’t let that stop us from seizing what this life has to offer us, no? What we find will only be sweeter because of the suffering we have endured. So we can say for today, there is no regrets. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I sometimes don’t know what to say on your post. I read them often but I just don’t know what to say. I’m such a happy person. I don’t care what I go through I find the beauty in it. I’ve had a stroke before. And I can only say, “But God!” Life is really what we make of it. Sometimes the cards don’t play in our favor, yet, there is still some joy in it all. I love you my brother that I don’t know but love anyways. Isn’t that what’s it about? Love. Joy. Peace. Gratitude. Faith. Hope. An expected end. Hold fast. Hold your head up. Stay encouraged. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great poem and thoughts my friend. One of my biggest fears is being incapacitated in some way to the point I can’t speak or take care of myself. I watched my mom slide into dimentia before she died…really sad to see a once vibrant human being waste away. It’s almost like watching someone erasing a drawing one line at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Larry, I guess the saving grace for somebody with dementia wold have be a kind-of event horizon, after which they are unaware of their own state. Impossibly difficult for the family, however, who are lucid throughout.


  4. My aunt passed away in February. She was 95. Until the last week of her life, she read novels daily. She talked on the phone with clarity about each family member.

    Many years ago she had several strokes. The remnants of no longer having a very loud voice, one side partially paralyzed, and the inability to write did not stop her from doing many things.

    On the other hand I have had family with far less wrong with them, who stayed in their recliners and just existed.

    I know with all of my disabilities I can no longer do what I wish I could. Blogging has been a great outlet to get to know more people in the world. I often think of how I would/will react if more systems shut down in my body. It is not a fun thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think, in the end, it ought to be about what a person wants. Stephen Hawking lived for so long with such physical limitations. I have no idea what he wanted but he got a lot done in his time. But if you hate being helpless and physically dependent it’s an awful sentence. At the moment, the law prevents any kind of mercy. I understand the complication but it does seem cruel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yep there are regular calls to change those laws here but every time, they punt it. I can see why.
      But I think we are often contradictory because we willingly take all this treatment which allows us to decay gradually. So in a way we are complicit in wanting to stay alive.

      It’s a difficult one. A lot of people might say they want out but how many of them just stop any treatment?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: