At Last, Clarity

Sara Backer

At Last, Clarity


The radiologist slaps the negative on the wall
and shines light on my condition.

I gaze into furling gray stripes meant to be
my heart. No—it’s a larger mystery,

a weave of light and life,
and now I finally see what I’ve sensed.

A crow is trapped inside my ribs
flying fiercely to find escape.

That’s the cause of those twinges
I mistook for angina.

The doctor ignores the crow,
and points to shadows.

How does he manage to look somber
swaddled in blue paper with a silly shower cap?

I see details on each feather in futile flight,
                                                  that striving beak.


Author’s Comments: I saw a photograph of a bird superimposed on a blurry background and began this poem to try to figure out what the background might be. I have a weird habit of paying more attention to backdrop than focal points. My subconscious led me to X-rays because of the ways they baffle interpretation, and how doctors will focus on what patients ignore (and vice versa). There is also a bit of denial when doctors say what patients don’t want to hear—when the unreal feels more right than the reality.

Sara Backer’s Elgin-nominated first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press)and Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork), which won the Turtle Island Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Asimov’s, Bracken, Dreams & Nightmares, The Pedestal, Silver Blade, Crannóg, Liminality, Space and Time, and Strange Horizons. She won third place in the 2019 Plough Poetry Competition and received two Best of the Net nominations for 2020.

Editor’s Notes: Artwork is an X-ray image (from an article “47 Radioactive X-Ray Facts” by Karin Lehnardt) and a crow in flight (freepnglogos)

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2 Responses to At Last, Clarity

  1. Steve Falcone says:

    The kind of unique thought I’ve come to expect
    from Sara. She weaves a hardline reality into its
    deeper meaning through metaphors that leap beyond
    the line before us, showing us the way to dig for a
    truth that shines when held up to the light. She is
    quite simply my favorite poet.

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