Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 30th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

Together we close-read the visual art “Mill hand’s lunch bucket (Pittsburgh memories)” by Romare Bearden, posted below.

Our prompt was: Tell the story of a moment in scraps and remnants.

More details about this session will be posted soon, so check back!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday, October 5th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.



Romare Bearden

 (American, 1911–1988)
Mill hand’s lunch bucket (Pittsburgh memories)
 , 1978–1978
Collage and Watercolor
34.9 x 46 cm. (13.7 x 18.1 in.)

Encuentros virtuales en vivo: Martes 29 de septiembre, 16:30 EST

¡Gracias por unirse a nuestra sesión hoy!

Nuestro texto fue “Masa” de César Vallejo, publicado a continuación.

Vamos a escribir: “Escribe acerca de un momento de comunión.

Se alienta a los participantes a compartir lo que escribieron a continuación (“Deja una respuesta”), para mantener la conversación aquí, teniendo en cuenta que el blog, por supuesto, es un espacio público donde no se garantiza la confidencialidad.

¡Cuéntenos más sobre su experiencia en este taller completando esta breve encuesta!

Por favor, únase a nosotros para nuestra próxima sesión en español: martes 13 de octubre a las 16:30 EST, con más veces listadas en inglés en nuestra página de sesiones grupales virtuales en vivo.


Masa | César Vallejo 

Al fin de la batalla,
y muerto el combatiente, vino hacia él un hombre
y le dijo: “¡No mueras, te amo tanto!”
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Se le acercaron dos y repitiéronle:
“¡No nos dejes! ¡Valor! ¡Vuelve a la vida!”
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Acudieron a él veinte, cien, mil, quinientos mil,
clamando “¡Tanto amor y no poder nada contra la muerte!”
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Le rodearon millones de individuos,
con un ruego común: “¡Quédate hermano!”
Pero el cadáver ¡ay! siguió muriendo.

Entonces todos los hombres de la tierra
le rodearon; les vio el cadáver triste, emocionado;
incorporóse lentamente,
abrazó al primer hombre; echóse a andar…

Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT September 28th 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

Our text was the poem “Spoiler” by Hala Alyan, posted below.

Our prompt was: “Write about what you might build knowing it will be ruined.”

More details about this session will be posted soon, so check back!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, September 30th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Spoiler by Hala Alyan

Can you diagnose fear? The red tree blooming from uterus
to throat. It’s one long nerve, the doctor says. There’s a reason
breathing helps, the muscles slackening like a dead marriage.
Mine are simple things. Food poisoning in Paris. Hospital lobbies.
My husband laughing in another room. (The door closed.)
For days, I cradle my breast and worry the cyst like a bead.
There’s nothing to pray away. The tree loves her cutter.
The nightmares have stopped, I tell the doctor. I know why.
They stopped because I baptized them. This is how my mother
and I speak of dying—the thing you turn away by letting in.
I’m tired of April. It’s killed our matriarchs and, in the back yard,
I’ve planted an olive sapling in the wrong soil. There is a droopiness
to the branches that reminds me of my friend, the one who calls
to ask what’s the point, or the patients who come to me, swarmed
with misery and astonishment, their hearts like newborns after
the first needle. What now, they all want to know. What now.
I imagine it like a beach. There is a magnificent sand castle
that has taken years to build. A row of pink seashells for gables,
rooms of pebble and driftwood. This is your life. Then comes the affair,
nagging bloodwork, a freeway pileup. The tide moves in.
The water eats your work like a drove of wild birds. There is debris.
A tatter of sea grass and blood from where you scratched your own arm
trying to fight the current. It might not happen for a long time,
but one day you run your fingers through the sand again, scoop a fistful out,
and pat it into a new floor. You can believe in anything, so why not believe
this will last? The seashell rafter like eyes in the gloaming.
I’m here to tell you the tide will never stop coming in.
I’m here to tell you whatever you build will be ruined, so make it beautiful.

Published in the print edition of 
the September 28, 2020, issue of The New Yorker

Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 18

Week 18: What a fascinating sequence in our next-to-last week! In this week’s chapter, “Highly Questionable,” we witness a séance, with the medium of a young Berghof patient named Ellen Brand. Her “spirit,” a “deceased, ethereal creature” named Holger who “speaks” through her, conjures for Castorp and a small group of others, after nearly two hours of writhing and sweating, the figure of Castorp’s cousin, Joachim. What a moment! We don’t totally know what happens for Castorp as he sees his cousin, gazing at him in “friendly silence” with “tenderness,” but Castorp, in response, whispers “‘Forgive me,'” though the text specifies that he whispers it to himself. Does he say this to excuse the fact that he then gets up to turn on the light and leave the room? Or is he saying this, instead, to Joachim? A very powerful, evocative, and unexpected scene. And so we are propelled forward to the end! Those who haven’t finished yet, how do you predict this will all end? 


For next week: Finish the book!! And join our LAST zoom meeting on Saturday (not Sunday!) October 3rd at 11 am! Register at narrativemedicine.blog/narrative-medicine-book-club


Ζωντανή συνεδρία αφηγηματικής ιατρικής: Πέμπτη 24 Σεπτεμβρίου, 7:30 m.m. EEST

Σας ευχαριστούμε που συμμετείχατε σε αυτήν τη συνεδρία.

Το κείμενό μας για σήμερα ήταν: Αχιλλέας Κυριακίδης, “Σώμα

Θέμα: Γράψτε την ιστορία ενός πόνου

Σύντομα θα μοιραστούμε περισσότερες πληροφορίες σχετικά με αυτήν τη συνεδρία, γι ‘αυτό επιστρέψτε ξανά.

Σας προσκαλούμε να μοιραστείτε τα γραπτά σας μαζί μας παρακάτω.

Καλούμε όλες και όλους που συμμετείχατε να μοιραστείτε όσα γράψατε κατά τη διάρκεια της συνεδρίας μας παρακάτω (“Leave a reply”) και να κρατήσουμε αυτή την τόσο ενδιαφέρουσα συζήτησή μας ζωντανή, υπενθυμίζοντάς σας, βεβαίως, ότι αυτή είναι μια δημόσια πλατφόρμα και η πρόσβαση ανοιχτή στο κοινό.

Θα θέλαμε να μάθουμε περισσότερα  για την εμπειρία σας με αυτές τις συνεδρίες. Αν το επιθυμείτε, παρακαλούμε αφιερώστε λίγο χρόνο σε μια σύντομη έρευνα δύο ερωτήσεων!

Ακολουθήστε τον σύνδεσμο: https://tinyurl.com/nmedg-survey


Απόσπασμα από τη νουβέλα Σώμα του Αχιλλέα Κυριακίδη (Εκδόσεις Πατάκη, Αθήνα, 2017).

Ένας πόνος.

Είχε αρχίσει από νωρίτερα, ύπουλος, ένα ελαφρά γλυκό γουργούρισμα που έφερνε γύρους στην κοιλιά του σαν κάτι να ‘ψαχνε την έξοδο, κι ύστερα, ενώ συνέχιζε το βάδισμα, η απελπισία αυτού του «κάτι» το ‘φερε να χτυπάει στα τοιχώματα και να φωνάζει με τη μόνη γλώσσα που ήξερε, μια αιχμηρή, παρατεταμένη σουβλιά, νότια-νοτιοανατολικά.

       Η περιτονίτις αποσοβήθηκε εγκαίρως, χάρη σ’ έναν γενναιόδωρο οδηγό ταξί που τον πήγε αμισθί στο Πρώτων βοηθειών, τότε γωνία Καποδιστρίου και 3ης Σεπτεμβρίου, κι από κει, με το γνωστό αλαλάζον ερυθρόλευκο όχημα, ο Μάρτης διακομίστηκε στο Ιπποκράτειο.

       Θυμάται το φορείο, την παγωνιά στο χειρουργείο, τον πόνο που δεν έλεγε να πάψει να του σκίζει τα σωθικά, κι ότι με το που έφερε ακριβώς αυτή τη λέξη στο μυαλό του, αμετανόητος, έψαξε να ‘βρει κάποια σκοτεινή ετυμολογία, κι ύστερα έπαιξε με τους τονισμούς και «σώθηκα» σκέφτηκε, γιατί ήδη κάποιος έσκυβε από πάνω του και τον ρωτούσε.

       «Μαρτινιανός Σταύρου».

       «Πώς;»

       «Μαρτινιανός. Σταύρου».

       «Μην ανησυχείς, Μα… τρινιανέ».

       Δεν πρόλαβε ούτε να διορθώσει ούτε ν’ ανησυχήσει, γιατί μια αιθέρια μάσκα έπεσε στο πρόσωπό του και τον γέμισε ύπνο.

       Δεν ήταν η πρώτη του χειρουργική επέμβαση. Έξι χρονών, αμυγδαλές, έφαγε τα περισσότερα παγωτά που θυμάται να ‘χει φάει μέσα σε πέντε μέρες, και διάβασε το πρώτο Κλασσικό Εικονογραφημένο* που η μυρωδιά του έμελλε να τον συνοδεύει σε κάθε διαφυγή του από λογής υπονόμους, στο θάνατο κάθε Φαντίνας—η μυρωδιά, και η εικόνα ενός καπέλου που επέπλεε στο ποτάμι, σηματοδοτώντας τον αμετάκλητο πνιγμό του Κακού.

Τώρα, στο διπλανό κρεβάτι του Ιπποκρατείου, ένας αποστεωμένος γέροντας πονούσε σε μια γλώσσα γοητευτικά ακατάληπτη. Ο Μάρτης προσπάθησε να αποκρυπτογραφήσει έστω και μια λέξη από το αδιάλειπτο παραλήρημα του γείτονα, αλλά χρειάστηκε να εμφανιστεί, έστω και διάττουσα, η εξίσου γηραιά σύζυγος;, αδελφή;, του πάσχοντος, για να καταλάβει (έστω από μισόλογα, αλλά εύληπτα) πως όλες οι κατάρες, οι βλαστήμιες και οι προσευχές του γέροντα κατάγονταν από μια περιοχή χαμένη σε κάτι ανερεύνητα εδάφη των βαθύτερων Βαλκανίων που, ακριβώς επειδή καμία χώρα δεν ασχολήθηκε με το να τα διεκδικήσει, είχαν αφεθεί χωρίς αντίσταση να τα τεμαχίσουν τριεθνείς συνοριακές διευθετήσεις.

       Πώς και γιατί είχε βρεθεί αυτός ο εξωτικός άνθρωπος σ’ ένα νοσοκομείο των Αθηνών, πώς είχε συνεννοηθεί με τους θεράποντες ουσία άλαλος, τι του ήταν η γυναίκα που διερμήνευε τους πόνους του, στεκόταν λίγο στο ιδρωμένο του προσκέφαλο κι ύστερα κοίταζε το ρολογάκι της, χαιρετούσε τον Μάρτη με συντρίμμια ελληνικών κι έφευγε σαν να την περίμενε ένα χρέος πιο σημαντικό από τη ζωή ενός άλλου που της ήταν τι;, σύζυγος;, αδελφός;, τίποτα;

       Όταν πήραν τον ξένο για να τον κόψουν εκεί όπου είχαν δείξει οι εξετάσεις, ο Μάρτης, μόνος σ’ ένα θάλαμο τεσσάρων κλινών, οι δύο κενές εξ υπαρχής, θυμήθηκε ένα διήγημα του Αμερικανού Κρίστιαν Γκρέινβιλ, για κάποιον που αφικνείται σ’ ένα αεροδρόμιο όπου ομιλείται μια σκληρή, αφωνήεσσα γλώσσα, και μόνο στο τέλος του διηγήματος ο αναγνώστης συνάγει ότι αυτό το αεροδρόμιο είναι ο θάνατος, ότι αυτό ακριβώς είναι ο θάνατος: η αδυναμία επικοινωνίας και συνεννόησης με τους άλλους. Τι σοφή που είναι αυτή η λέξη, «συνεννόηση», σκέφτηκε, και γι’ άλλη μια φορά ευχαρίστησε τον ανώνυμο έλληνα λογοπλάστη.


Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 23rd 2020

Sixteen participants got up close and personal with Ted Kooser’s arachnid poem Daddy Long Legs. After listening closely to two readings, we discussed our overall impression of the work by noting words, lines and images that stood out. Some questions that were asked: What is a spider’s simple obsession—to find food and live? How does it relate to our obsessions? Can steel be springy? What is the poem really about, beyond an insect? One reader, drawing on a kinship with the book Charlotte’s Web, noted the paradox of the relative size/strength relationship of an ant, fly or spider: fragile/crushable yet so very strong. In the spirit of narrative medicine, it was also noted that close looking at insects (outside a poem) reveals their beauty and identity beyond pest status.

Several participants identified an affiliation with the spider and themselves (an easy grace, with our movement controlled by the center of ourself providing a calming balance) and also distinctions: what if we were unflustered by superficiality and could home in on being content with ourselves with love at the center?

The description of the spider reminded one listener-reader of another bug: a drawing of a virus that looks spider-like. This raised questions of vulnerability, mobility and motility: : are we more like a fly caught in a spider’s web, or when there is no web, what sustains us in addition to our thoughts? We came full circle by recognizing that the poem’s colloquial title was not universally accessible. The words “Daddy Long Legs” evoked thoughts of an ill father for one participant while for others it reminded them of an epistolary novel, a movie, and a stage musical. 

Our reflective writing was to the prompt: Write about a thought…caught

We had five writers share their reflections. One writing considered the moment we are now living in with COVID as a time that has caught us in a continued exploration of internal and external thoughts. Another writer saw the act of meditation challenging us to let go of our thoughts and breath. Following on this theme a writer likened a thought as “hooking a fat fish”, and considering whether to keep it or toss it back to “swim with our other random thoughts”. Another writer offered the idea of seeing in the eye of a beloved the depth of their love and wanting to be caught in the center of that loved one’s thoughts. And one writing took us into a dream of violence, where the killing of another provokes the question “am I perpetrator or victim?” and resolving with having been caught in this troubled thought until just now.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday, September 28th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Daddy Long Legs
by Ted Kooser
 
Here, on fine long legs springy as steel,
a life rides, sealed in a small brown pill
that skims along over the basement floor
wrapped up in a simple obsession.
Eight legs reach out like the master ribs
of a web in which some thought is caught
dead center in its own small world,
a thought so far from the touch of things
that we can only guess at it. If mine,
it would be the secret dream
of walking alone across the floor of my life
with an easy grace, and with love enough
to live on at the center of myself.

“Daddy Long Legs” from Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985, 
by Ted Kooser, © 2005. 
All rights are controlled by 
the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. 

Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT September 21st 2020

Seventeen participants joined this evening–some furnishing weather reports, purple clouds, a recent sighting of a rainbow–from PA, MA, NH, NY, Seattle (with newly smokeless skies), India, and England, where we hear another Covid-19 lockdown is coming. 

We come into this clearing reiterating our pledge to each other to contain what is shared here, making this “safe space” and acknowledging that it is also “brave space.” 

After two readings of an excerpt from “Sonny’s Blues” we waited and waded into the deep waters of this text and a scene of musicians warming to a collaboration of making music. Baldwin’s detailed description, through the eyes of the narrator, who studies Sonny’s face and Creole’s body language, as they begin to play in a trio or quartet. The narrator muses throughout about the effort of making music, of what creativity demands, of the hesitation to give voice to an instrument made of wood or wire, of how the musician must fill his instrument with his own breath, his life. As one participant noted the text is rooted “deep in the body.” Another expressed their awe for the “cultivation of inner listening” and “knowing to capture the magic in music” described in this piece.

As a group we wondered about the narrator, who begins this paragraph with the words, “All I know about music is that few people ever really hear it.” One participant immediately resonated to the idea of hearing and how that’s what we try to do in these sessions: bring our own associations and experiences to what the author writes and try to hear meaning. He thought perhaps the narrator was the bartender, who watches the musicians. Is he a failed musician?

This brought thoughts about how different it is to be in an audience or on a stage. How well-rendered art obscures the effort, the anxiety that the creator of art feels. Baldwin uses words like “torment” to get at the intensity of what can be felt in creating, in giving life to music–perhaps not unlike the birthing of a baby. 

One person imagined her way into Baldwin’s experience (knowing how difficult it was for him to express what he had to say) and suggested that experience helped him to imagine the musician’s task, in Baldwin’s words “More terrible because it has no words.”

Another person noted the extremes described: “terrible” and “triumphant.” 

There were also similarities we felt in the fluidity of the prose, the fluidity of musical notes merging, of water and air mentioned in the piece. A favorite metaphor was “deep water” and Creole’s wanting Sonny to know what he knew: being in deep water is not the same as drowning. In that way, with that knowing, Creole hoped to lure Sonny from the shoreline to the deep waters of jazz. 

After writing for 4 minutes to the prompt “Write about leaving the shoreline”, three participants read aloud their creative writing. 

One person read what sounds like a myth “of heaven and earth,” a “land of many shorelines,” and the gods’ mandate to liberate captives from Ahushdan, which is referred to, alternately, as “a literary place” and “a military place.” 

Another writer writes of the unfamiliar which is encountered when leaving the shoreline. Is there a destination or is there a venturing out to discover? Fear of “losing sight of the shoreline” is countered with the wish to stay “tethered to the shore.” One response to this reading began with a brave offering of a visceral memory of untying a rowboat from a riverside and being carried downstream, in a way that frightened the second grader, who ended up needing to be rescued. We learned that this participant tried again and again until able to reach the other side of the river. We acknowledged that many questions – unanswered and not – that emerge when we find ourselves about to cross the shoreline, pulled by the current and lulled by waves.

The third reading explored the shoreline itself–what is left on the shoreline, what of that is human refuse, and what is “undigested”?The sea is described as an “obedient” sea.Another keen listener questioned the qualifier “obedient,” saying that she never thought of the sea–that kills people–as “obedient.”

As promised, we are linking here a JAMA Perspectives piece about the shoreline, and what changes and what remains of the “shoreline” when our professional lives are threatened by “ocean waves” of unexpected catastrophic circumstances, as we do in the Times of Covid.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Wednesday, September 23rd at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


from Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues” pp. 137-138.

All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours. I just watched Sonny’s face. His face was troubled, he was working hard, but he wasn’t with it. And I had the feeling that, in a way, everyone on the bandstand was waiting for him, both waiting for him and pushing him along. But as I began to watch Creole, I realized that it was Creole who held them all back. He had them on a short rein. Up there, keeping the beat with his whole body, waiting on the fiddle, with his eyes half closed, he was listening to everything, but he was listening to Sonny. He was having a dialogue with Sonny. He wanted Sonny to leave the shoreline and strike out for the deep water. He was Sonny’s witness that deep water and drowning were not the same thing—he had been there, and he knew. And he wanted Sonny to know. He was waiting for Sonny to do the things on the keys which would let Creole know that Sonny was in the water.

  And while Creole listened, Sonny moved, deep within, exactly like someone in torment. I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It’s made of so much wood and wires and little hammers and big ones, and ivory. While there’s only so much you can do with it, the only way to find this out is to try and make it do everything.    


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 17

Week 17: The conclusion of the Peeperkorn story surprised me quite a bit. And Chauchat’s departure doesn’t even get its own paragraph?! In the wake of these losses Castorp descends into a full solitude, a “stupor,” where meaning and engagement is harder to find. Yet we end these pages with the introduction of a gramophone to the Berghof; Castorp falls in love with it quite literally (his obsession recalls when he first started reading the medical textbooks), and we get an examination of his favorite recordings, which bring him into deep relation with the world of art and feeling. “…An object created by the human spirit and intellect, which means a significant object, is ‘significant’ in that it points beyond itself, is an expression and exponent of a more universal spirit and intellect, of a whole world of feelings and ideas that have found a more or less perfect image of themselves in that object – by which the degree of its significance is measured. Moreover, love for such an object itself is equally ‘significant.'” I love reading Mann on art; hard not to read all of this as a reflection on the novel itself, as we come close to its end.


For next week: Read to “The Great Petulance.” 


Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 16th 2020

We welcomed 18 people to participate in our workshop’s close reading discussion of an excerpt from The Swimmer, a short story by John Cheever. Although the title and author had been withheld, some participants recognized the passage from the larger work. Others were unfamiliar with it, and this allowed for a variety of observations and perspectives. An initial response connected depression, seeking, and an unhappy life with the sense of running away exemplified by the odd goal to “swim across the county” by way of one backyard swimming pool after another. Our readers noted the disparities of a “stubborn autumnal fragrance… strong as gas” that conjured a toxic atmosphere. In addition, the analogy of a life being looked back upon through this self-imposed challenge was highlighted by phrases like, “looking over his shoulder he saw, in the lighted bathhouse, a young man.” Was our swimmer reflecting back on his youth when he recognizes the aging of his own body where “the strength in his arms and shoulders had gone”? 

There was “a ridiculousness” of this journey/challenge noted, and also the revelation that though we may set a goal and strive to achieve it, the achievement may not result in exaltation and a sense of triumph. It may sometimes result in the question “now what?”

Our writing prompt was an invitation to “Take us on a strange journey.” Four writers read their work. We entered the catacombs of Paris via a strange entrance, led by a cousin (referred to as a “loser”) wielding lanterns. This writer asked the question, “If we go into the depths can we be transformed?” The next writer took us on an immigrant journey where we heard “cries lost among others” where a great grandmother is embodied in the bowels of a ship, a visceral journey that makes vivid the depth of heritage. In the shadow of Cheever, the striving for a goal but not yielding triumph evoked a familiar feeling. Our next writer described how when walking the streets at night, she liked seeing “trees towering up to the heavens.” Then one tree struck by lightning smashes to the ground. In this turn of events, what started as NOT a strange journey became one. The writer’s repetition of “tomorrow/tomorrow/tomorrow” created a connection to the unknowable future. Our last reader personified a 2-year-old boy reflecting in a mirror where he saw “sclera lined with ripples of red,” a use of lens language that went beyond literal to metaphorical of how when we look at ourselves we may not actually see ourselves.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday, September 21st at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Originally published in The New Yorker, July 18, 1964. Reprinted in The Brigadier and the
Golf Widow (1964) and in The Stories of John Cheever (1978). Copyright © 1978 by John
Cheever

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I’m swimming across the county.”

“Good Christ. Will you ever grow up?”

“What’s the matter?”

“If you’ve come here for money,” she said, “I won’t give you another cent.”

“You could give me a drink.”

“I could but I won’t. I’m not alone.”

“Well, I’m on my way.”

He dove in and swam the pool, but when he tried to haul himself up onto the curb he found that the strength in his arms and shoulders had gone, and he paddled to the ladder and climbed out. Looking over his shoulder he saw, in the lighted bathhouse, a young man. Going out onto the dark lawn he smelled chrysanthemums or marigolds—some stubborn autumnal fragrance—on the night air, strong as gas. Looking overhead he saw that the stars had come out, but why should he seem to see Andromeda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia? What had become of the constellations of midsummer? He began to cry.

It was probably the first time in his adult life that he had ever cried, certainly the first time in his life that he had ever felt so miserable, cold, tired, and bewildered. He could not understand the rudeness of the caterer’s barkeep or the rudeness of a mistress who had come to him on her knees and showered his trousers with tears. He had swum too long, he had been immersed too long, and his nose and his throat were sore from the water. What he needed then was a drink, some company, and some clean, dry clothes, and while he could have cut directly across the road to his home he went on to the Gilmartins’ pool. Here, for the first time in his life, he did not dive but went down the steps into the icy water and swam a hobbled sidestroke that he might have learned as a youth. He staggered with fatigue on his way to the Clydes’ and paddled the length of their pool, stopping again and again with his hand on the curb to rest. He climbed up the ladder and wondered if he had the strength to get home. He had done what he wanted, he had swum the county, but he was so stupefied with exhaustion that his triumph seemed vague. Stooped, holding on to the gateposts for support, he turned up the driveway of his own house.


Encuentros virtuales en vivo: Martes 15 de septiembre, 16:30 EST

Tuvimos la primera sesión en español de Septiembre y además con cambio de día y hora y fue una muy buena experiencia! Fuimos 12 participantes en total representando a Chile, Estados Unidos, España, Brasil y México. La mayoría había asistido previamente a una o más sesiones, pero igual tuvimos participantes que asistían por primera vez.  

El texto que elegimos para esta sesión fue un poema de Rubén Darío, llamado “Lo Fatal,” publicado a continuación. Dos voluntarias leyeron el texto en voz alta. Desde el principio, el sentimiento más preponderante entre los asistentes fue el de contradicción, donde el texto habla de sentir y no sentir, vivir y morir, el saber y no saber… nadie tenía claridad acerca de qué es lo que el texto quería transmitirnos. Del mismo modo, había versos que generaban impacto en los lectores (“dichoso el que no siente” o “dolor de estar vivo”). Sin embargo, lentamente más ideas fueron surgiendo, como la idea de que el título no parecía estar acorde al contenido del texto, lo que fue subrayado por dos participantes. Otros lectores percibieron que el poema habla de la vida (o de a ausencia de ella) más que de la muerte, lo que cambiaba el foco de una forma relevante. Una participante interpretó la intención del poeta como que prefería vivir en la ignorancia de lo que es la vida, dado que la propia vida le genera mucha angustia (le duele estar vivo, pero le aterra estar muerto). Otro participante recibió el texto como algo que el podría escribir a los 85 años, habiendo vivido un dolor muy grande… en contraposición, otros sostenían que ese tipo de dolor era propio de un momento previo en la vida, como la juventud,… como se ve, el tema del dolor fue recurrente entre los participantes, a todos les transmitía dolor al leer, algunos afirmaron que el poeta escribió estas líneas tras haber sufrido una pérdida muy grande (una muerte, una pena de amor?). Otra emoción que los participantes percibieron en el texto fue la angustia, angustia por no saber, o angustia por no saber lo que no sé, pero la sensación de estar peor si lo sé.

Escribir en conjunto: “Escribe acerca de un momento de incertidumbre.” Varios participantes compartieron sus momentos, y aunque en general fueron escritos “a la sombra del texto original,” lo que transmitieron, a diferencia del texto original, fue paz, belleza, movimiento. Un participante se centró en la certeza de elegir una vida incierta, sin que el saber que la vida fuera incierta le generara discomfort. Otros participantes escribieron respuestas que ahondaban en la relación o diferencia de la incertidumbre y su significado para uno mismo o para los demás, lo que reflejaron algunos en el rol del profesional de salud y lo importante que podría ser reflexionar este texto sobre el rol del médico y la importancia de la certeza (o falta de ella).

Se alienta a los participantes a compartir lo que escribieron a continuación (“Deja una respuesta”), para mantener la conversación aquí, teniendo en cuenta que el blog, por supuesto, es un espacio público donde no se garantiza la confidencialidad.

¡Esperamos verte pronto!

¡Cuéntenos más sobre su experiencia en este taller completando esta breve encuesta!


Lo fatal | Rubén Darío

Dichoso el árbol, que es apenas sensitivo,
y más la piedra dura porque esa ya no siente,
pues no hay dolor más grande que el dolor de ser vivo,
ni mayor pesadumbre que la vida consciente.

Ser y no saber nada, y ser sin rumbo cierto,
y el temor de haber sido y un futuro terror…
Y el espanto seguro de estar mañana muerto,
y sufrir por la vida y por la sombra y por

lo que no conocemos y apenas sospechamos,
y la carne que tienta con sus frescos racimos,
y la tumba que aguarda con sus fúnebres ramos,
¡y no saber adónde vamos,
ni de dónde venimos!…