Widow Maker

“You want to reclaim/this stolen piece of you,” Pamela R. Anderson-Bartholet writes in the title poem of Widow Maker, and as she immerses us in what it’s like to almost lose a spouse to a heart attack and then cope with the life changes that follow, we come to see how aptly the sentiment expressed applies to both patient and caregiver. The poems vividly capture the razor’s edge each must navigate between the hope offered by medical intervention and the frightening aspects of dealing with the health care system, including the threat tests and treatments pose to the quality of the life preserved. In The Visible Horizon, the doctor is an “angel” but one with eyes that are “indecipherable black wells.” The thirteen bottles of pills that “stand sentinel against another heart attack” in Ouroboros, also contain warnings “that quail even the stoutest of hearts.” Yet, there are moments of sustenance and joy. In Prophet, a stranger on a plane offers comfort as the speaker travels to her husband’s bedside. In Mercy, the couple rebel against the shadow that illness has imposed: “We’re going dancing tonight/under a Shenandoah Blue Moon.” And Anderson-Bartholet reminds us that, through it all, we have the power to focus on what truly matters, to “claim what’s left of the day.” Widow Maker is available here.

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