April 26, 2021

Brendan Egan

BREADFATHER

All night our mother formed him
from memory. She kneaded the dough
into the body that we knew.
His leg: a sleek, clubbed baguette. 
His belly: a hungry, swollen boule.
With a cup of black caraway
she pocked the skin. Twirled pretzels
would let him hear. To see, she gave
him fat rye eyes basted in egg.
His mouth she left tongue-empty.

In the dark, the oven lifted him, 
chest filling with his sour breath.
We woke to find our father spread
on the kitchen table—a jam jar
and stick of cold butter beside 
the dun brioche that sank in his lap.
We sat, and mother told us, “Eat.”
We held his grissini fingers
in shaking hands. We said kaddish.
He was mute. We broke his flesh.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity

__________

Brendan Egan: “At about 13, my body seemed to be beginning a revolt against my mind. And not just in the ways predicted by the videos in health class! Whenever I moved suddenly (say, getting out of a chair to answer the door or crossing the street after stopping for traffic), a wave of weird energy moved inside me. Then all the muscles on one side of my body would constrict and contort in familiar patterns, often crashing me onto the ground. A minute or so later, it would be over, leaving me embarrassed and confused but otherwise fine. It took some good doctors and a bunch of uncomfortable tests to determine that I have PKD: paroxysmal kinesegenic dyskinesia. In short, a gene mutation has miswired the path between my brain and body, which shorts out under certain conditions. The diagnosis is rare enough that I’ve never met someone else who has it. I can’t say that as a poet and writer, I could represent a PKD community as no such community, per se, exists. I’ve been hit by a taxi and even arrested because of the bizarre things my body has done in crosswalks, though I’ve never written about these specific episodes, and I’m not sure I feel compelled to. But I do think of myself as ‘strange brained,’ and as such, I’m maybe more interested than most in the uneasy connection between mind and body that governs all of our lives. In my thirties, my PKD attacks have become less frequent (from many times a day down to just a few times a year), but as a parent I find myself preoccupied with a new set of concerns. What if I can’t chase after my toddler as she runs toward a dangerous situation? Will one of my kids develop this condition? What responsibilities do all of us take on regarding the lottery of our children’s inheritances? Thanks so much for the chance to share my work and bring some awareness to the wide variance in the forms of the brain and its effect on the way we experience the world.” (web)

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