Worthy bodies: Highlighting disabled writers in District Lit

District Lit, the journal I’m the Poetry Editor for, recently published our Disability Issue. These writers and artists share their raw truths about living with disabilities, chronic pain, invisible illness, and medical treatments. They share intimate medical histories, fears, hopes, pain, and scars.

These are important voices, and I’m so excited and honored to share them. I’ve been wanting to highlight the voices of people with disabilities and chronic illness for a while, and District Lit offered a great home for these important stories and experiences.

These writers and artists share their raw truths. These are vital voices at a time when the Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Medicaid/Medicare, and disability rights are threatened.

These contributors show the disabled and chronically ill body unflinchingly. They show their bodies are valid bodies.

You can also read my and Guest Editor Jen Stein Hauptmann’s Editors’ Note for more background on the issue.

The issue includes artwork by Christine Stoddard and Paul Flippen; nonfiction by: Emma Bolden, Shari Eberts, Kaleb Estes, Jenn A. Garvin, Heather Taylor Johnson, and Amy Wang Manning; and poetry by: D. Allen, Judith Arcana, Roxanna Bennett, J V Birch, Kristene Brown, Aubrie Cox Warner, Katherine Edgren, Robbie Gamble, Jane Ellen Glasser, Joey Gould, Carrie Purcell Kahler, Jen Karetnick, Christoph Keller, Adrian Kresnak, Travis Chi Wing Lau, Sarah Lilius, Jennifer Met, Daniel Edward Moore, David Olsen, Jeff Pearson, Maria Ramos-Chertok, Andrea Rogers, Ruby Stephens, Denise Thompson-Slaughter, and Jessica Tower.

Poet Kaveh Akbar even tweeted that everyone should take time with this important issue. Thanks for your support, Kaveh!

Please take some time with our Disability Issue.

‘Body remembers’ in The Fem

For the past year, I’ve been suffering from intense lower back pain that also causes numbness in my right foot. This pain was different from anything I’ve experienced.

Although I was born with skeletal dysplasia, and have a bad case of scoliosis, my back never bothered me. Until last year. When it hit me hard.

For one week, I was flat on my back, unable to sit or stand because doing so exacerbated my pain. For a while, I felt like I’d be stuck there on my bed for the rest of my life.

I had X-rays, an MRI, several doses of steroids. I’ve seen many doctors who’ve offered me differing opinions — your pain will go away, it will just take time, it’s a long process, your numbness may never go away, you’ll be like this forever. Welcome to the new you.

You’ll be like this forever. Welcome to the new you.

So, of course, I wrote about it. My latest piece about the body, “Body remembers,” was published in The Fem on May 11. It is a history of the mutation of my COL2A1 gene — how my bone disorder affects different parts of my body. And how resilient this particular mutation is — it tries very hard to get passed on to children.

In the poem, I compare this chronic pain to office supplies, like a tangled rubber band ball or sharp paper clips because I first started experiencing it in an office setting. I was trying to place the reader in a swivel chair, seated in front of a computer screen, starting to feel pangs in their own back.

Pain is a full-body experience.

I also explore the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life — worse than this ongoing back pain and foot numbness — an ear infection I got after I flew with a cold. This ear infection made me lose my hearing for a good two weeks. And there’s not much you can do to alleviate internal ear pain. You just lay there, feeling as if you’ll never be pain-free again.

Today, I’m not stuck on my bed. I’m working full-time, going to poetry workshops, and marketing my book!

When you’re in the midst of pain, it affects you completely. Pain is a full-body experience that tires people out. Luckily for me, it ebbs and flows. And I’m able to say “take that” in pain’s face and write about it.