Volume 3, Issue viii
Wild Greens 3, no. 08 (June 2023)
Welcome to the June 2023 issue of Wild Greens
Reflection is how we process our past. It’s how we grow into our future. Reflection is the way we see ourselves. But like ripples in the water, or warped sheets of metal, our own perceptions can also be distortions. A mirror shows us our reflection, but it is up to us to interpret what we see.
Robin Brownfield’s mosaic, “What I See,” places two versions of one woman, past and future, in a mirrored reflection.
Christina Dappollone McGovern’s personal essay, “Nine Minutes,” reflects on what it means to be a caregiver after the author’s husband loses his short-term memory in an accident. Emily Solomon’s “Restoration,” a portrait in acrylic, depicts the subject’s sense of self as she heals from the death of her father.
Christian Ward’s poem “A Cancer Patient Considers His Reflection” takes a personal look at cancer. “King and Queen Ocean Duo,” by Melissa Lomax, depicts a restorative sea.
In the newest Turtle and Hare, “Narcissus” makes a mistake.
Richard Ettinger’s poem pushes against the static, white noise of feeling “Disconnected.” Lynne Marie Rosenberg’s ink and watercolor “404 Error” is a humorous take on looking in the mirror. “Pyrophytic,” a poem by Megan Jauregui Eccles, longs for something lost.
Elisabeth D.’s poem “mirror’s reflection” considers how harmful a person’s interpretation of their reflection can be. “Chip off the New Block,” a found-wood and pencil drawing by Melissa Lomax, hides a whimsical object in an unexpected place.
Lorraine Fae’s poem “an ode to self-love” re-fashions perceived flaws as objects of beauty and love.
When we create, we have the power to reflect the world we choose to see.
What I See
by Christina Dappollone McGovern
I saw my husband for the first time after emergency surgery, in the Cardiac ICU, hooked up to a machine that dropped his body temperature to 32 degrees Celsius. When the heart stops beating and you die, your brain, in its final message before shutting down, tells your body to self-destruct. It sends little electromagnetic pulses out to every organ, every cell, indicating that it’s over and time has run out; erase the files and begin the journey to dust. If someone happens to snatch you from the clutches of death, say, nine minutes after that message is sent, well, the body, in all its efficiency, has already started to molecularly break down.
“Therapeutic hypothermia” buys some time to slow that process, depleting the brain of oxygen, until the organs catch up with the new message: cease and desist all decomposition. It also makes a person appear stiff. He doesn’t remember me touching his cold body and asking him to stay with me, because he was in a coma. He doesn’t remember them telling me that he might never wake up, and that even if he did, it could take months, and he still might be permanently brain-damaged from the lack of oxygen and swelling.
He doesn’t remember defying those odds, jolting back into consciousness and crying my name as he struggled to reconcile the feeling of the intubation tube and his confusion. Those memories are all mine to reflect on.
When my husband first woke up, he had no short-term memory at all. Every minute was a repeat of the last; speaking with him became an exercise in patience with the patient. As time went on, he was able to retain more for longer, but then the details were often blurred by perception, or emotion, or drugs, and in sleep, his brain would reboot and erase whatever had just happened. He knew me, his children, his family, because we were cemented into his long-term memory, categorized and easily retrievable, but he forgot who came to visit, who called, information the doctors told him, what he was and wasn’t supposed to do, how this happened.
Our days were scripted:
“Chris, what happened? Why am I in the hospital?”
“You had a heart attack, Kev.” It wasn’t really. It was really a sudden cardiac arrest due to an unknown genetic defect that caused tachycardia, but it got too hard to say that over and over.
“Yes. At work. You collapsed after a meeting, and you were revived on site before they brought you here.”
“I fainted at work?” You could hear the fear and tension in his voice. He was embarrassed and afraid that they had seen him that way.
“No honey. You died at work. You had a heart attack and you died for nine minutes. You are at Cooper hospital now being treated.”
“Yes, love. But you were revived, and now you are here, and it's time to get better.”
“Does Steve know?”
Steve was Kevin’s current supervisor. The man dies on the floor at work, and he’s concerned about whether his boss knows or not. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that everyone at work knew, because everyone at work watched it happen. Everyone saw him hit the ground. Saw them rip his shirt open. Saw the head of safety, a trim, athletic man, start the compressions by throwing himself on top of my husband’s chest and beating into his ribcage as hard as he could. They all saw his body arch after they yelled “Clear!” and the defibrillator sent 1000 volts surging through his torso.
“Yes, Steve already knows. I spoke to him and some others at your job already.”
“Steve’s a great guy; he’s the best boss I ever had.”
“You’ve said that. He must be awesome.”
“What happened? Why am I in the hospital?”
“You had a heart attack, Kev.” And so on.
I memorized a routine, hyper-aware, paying massive attention to small details. Was his IV infected? When were the nurses due? Was he more or less lucid than 15 minutes ago? The need to remember what he couldn’t extended to everything. In the elevator, I memorized the faces of people who got in silently, pushed the buttons, and looked down. No one wanted to intrude on my pain, force me to smile and chat when I couldn’t.
I remember doctors in the space standing apart from the rest of us, trying to avoid questions, or worse, imploring eyes that said, “You wear that badge, those scrubs, that stethoscope around the neck of your bleached white coat—you must know how to make it go away.” But they were just people who couldn’t work miracles every minute, or even any minute, and certainly not in transit. On the elevator a silent pact was made, the learned behaviors of trauma surfaced, and everyone somehow remembered what not to say.
I also remember those that helped us. Stacee, Kev’s nurse, whose name was written on the board as only that, took his vitals, ran his I.V., pestered the O.R. for his labs, and hunted down doctors for his meds. Her job is to help you remember, to be the record keeper, the person responsible for giving the information and data that leads to all other decisions. She also bathed him, returning him to human form after they dissected him like an animal during surgery, and calmed him down, commenting on what a beautiful family he had to distract him from the pain. Her name, written on the dry-erase board line inches away from his head, was the first thing he saw when he woke up vulnerable every morning, and the last thing I saw as I left each night to go home.
Becoming hyper-aware illuminated changes in me as well. I noticed my brain making decisions for me automatically, shielding me at times, filtering information, altering my senses, and dulling my response levels so I could survive. A forced calm, created by a rider who knows you'll buck the carriage if you can see oncoming traffic and puts your blinders on as you trot down the street. I recall controlling the adrenaline that magnified my sensory responses, geared me up for split-second decisions, and kept me going at home with my children. It’s muscle memory now, Pavlovian, resurfacing whenever he says he is tired or something doesn’t feel right.
On the night he finally returned, I was also forced to reflect on my children. Upon seeing Kevin, my nine-year-old spontaneously burst into his first tears. The days he spent away from his dad were wrought with thoughts and fears he did not express. I see now how he was afraid to know, and remember that even as a child, he stayed strong for me. My 14-year-old, stoic and unassuming, rushed down the stairs and stopped just short of the hug he desperately wanted. He was sick, concerned for Kevin’s health, trying to protect him. They never saw Kevin in the hospital, because I couldn’t bear to put the images and happenings of a trauma that threatened our existence as a family into their minds.
But that means that now, I’m the only one who remembers. There is no sharing of the burden, because I shielded them from truths they shouldn’t have to know. And ultimately, I did that for Kevin as well, choosing to share only pieces of information that would help, until he was able to deal with it all. I am brimming with the details of someone else’s trauma; recording it and reflecting on it made it mine.
This is the role of the caregiver, a role I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I dip my toes in. You can lose yourself in the current when you define yourself this way. To be ready for the role, somewhere along the way you have to learn to ignore your own instincts for self-preservation and control your own negative emotions, so the patient can have his. You absorb the stress he deflects to you, complementing his struggle instead of reflecting it. You let it seep out drop by drop in the shower, where it can’t be seen or shared, where it can’t hurt him more than he already is. You do this, because you are not sick. You are not in pain. Your broken is not the same as his, and the love you feel for him is now tethered to the guilt of comparison.
A few weeks after he came home, we drove back to the hospital for personal items they requested we pick up. Automatically, I shifted into autopilot, traversing the familiar onramp into the parking garage. “Do you know where you are going?” he asked. Of course I did. I drove it a hundred times. “Because I’ve never been here before,” he muttered, except that of course, he had. Following me down halls I could navigate with my eyes closed, I showed him the “Healing Garden” bench I sat on when I was taking a break, the cafe where I got my coffee, the elevators we used to come and go. Nothing looked familiar to him.
My heart palpitated inside my calm exterior, a learned response to the environment, as the woman at patient services examined his canceled driver’s license in disbelief. The picture on the card didn’t look like him anymore, which was not surprising, because he was nowhere near the same. When she couldn’t find anything for him, I remembered. “JAM3033,” I said as it all hit me. “Look under JAM3033. He came in, unidentified, until several hours later.” He studied me as she left to retrieve whatever they had. “I don’t remember that at all,” he exclaimed. Of course he didn’t. How could he?
The woman returned with a sealed plastic bag containing his lacerated clothing and the missing keys to his car we were looking for. On the way home, he busied himself with his phone, concerned with trying to do some semblance of work that week, despite still dealing with ongoing memory loss, a feeble attempt to restore normalcy after so long away.
“Strange isn’t it?” I said out loud by accident.
“What is?” he said, still engrossed in his phone.
“This is a bag full of the clothes you died in. This is what you were wearing when you died.”
A moment passed, gravity pulling down on us, the world turning, the absurdity of the statement spinning with it. He closed the phone, visibly perturbed. At home, he turned to me and said, “I’m putting them outside in the trash. I don’t want them in the house.” I understood. But out of sight isn’t always out of mind. He put off work a little longer. I waited for the trash collectors to take it all away.
Five months later, he regained control of most of his short-term memory, and life continued, but the details of his episode were gone forever from him. I haven’t shared all that I remember, because he’s already broken in a way he can’t recover from, and sparing him the gory details of the event that did it feels kinder. Instead, I chronicle our time together now, toggling between intimate clarity and distanced perspective.
It’s challenging, because I struggle to feel easy in the present I am recording in my mind. Fear of what could happen always mingles with the memories of what did. But regardless of how many details we each retain, I can tell you one thing we have each agreed to remember. Less than two percent of those with Kev’s experience survive. He has been given a very, very rare second chance. So he focuses on creating moments he wants to remember, and I try to forget what could hinder our enjoyment of them, and despite those nine minutes, we go on.
A Cancer Patient Considers His Reflection
by Christian WardMy reflection is a jigsaw I've forgotten how to put backtogether. My legs are missing pieces:nobody knows where my mobilitywent or if I'll see it again. Under the sofa?The dried riverbed of my face are the corner pieces. The smasheddollhouse of my chest is the easiestpart to put together. Don't be concernedtoo much if the final versionisn't a mirror image of the original:I spend most days waiting to be boxed away,covered in a tablecloth of dust, before tasting the light and blue of a jumble sale. Another game lies ahead.
King and Queen Ocean Duo
If you like the issue, you can donate to Wild Greens through our Ko-fi page!
DisconnectedInnocuous winds carry rash thoughts, like a herald foretells blissful fresh air that flicks through a faded book of forgotten missteps to find a blank page. My phone in my hand, reading your message once, twice. This place where the atmosphere is charged—sunrays unravel particles, respirable dust in midair. Contradictions make it worse, make it unbearable, for what it is now. Staring until the screen darkens. Two and a half years of promises. Was it worth it?When did my body feel happiness, sadness, normality? Being in between or tilting the pointer of a scale to one extreme—everything feels like the same static, white noise. Unnoticed, but constantly in existence. Messages of the subliminal comprised by the unconscious. Our portrait under the shattered surface—unattainable, like placing a foot on the floor, but not feeling it, gravity but no friction. The tingling in my fingers when getting sober was never there again. My battery is at 0%—I’ve left the chat, I’m dis- and never again connected.
Pyrophyticby Megan Jauregui Eccles I lost myself in a wildfire five minutes into a new life.I did not rise like a phoenix—the best parts of me burroweddown into the soil, waiting for someone like you to comeand whisper your worship.Do you love me, now that I have grown?
Read about the inspiration for this month's logo on Ko-Fi.
mirror's reflectionby Elisabeth D.
CW: eating disorder How had it even started?You were so happy when you were littleSo pretty,So skinny.You were excited to grow upBefore learning what it meant. But you did.You grew upAnd fell on the ground.You tried and failedTo stay upright.You scratched your kneesBut one timeNo one was there to put a band-aid on them.And somehow,Someway,You learned to hate yourself. It’s not a big deal.You tell yourself,You’re just not hungry,Reassuring yourself that losing a little weight can’t hurt.Can it?You haven’t eaten since yesterday.It’s okay.You don’t deserve to anyway. When did it become so big?You glance at yourself in the mirrorBroke down in tears. You cry as if it burns calories.But still you don’t understand.It doesn’t matter how thin you are,You’ll always be too fat in the mirror’s reflection.
Chip off the New Block
an ode to self-loveby Lorraine FaeI love how your front teeth are still a little crookedeven after bracesI love the stretch marks on your thighshow your breasts aren’t perfectly evenand how I can’t quite tell if your hairis blonde or brunettestraight or wavybut it’s always untamed and radiant
I love how you don’t know how to dancebut do it anyway, constantly,and how you can’t carry a tunebut still, you sing
I love your unconditional loveyour doting loveyour reckless loveas if no one has ever broken your heart before
I love the way you pile on jewelry like you must wear all of itall at oncehow your style changes like the weather–just wait an hour–how you are always searchinghow you are always gratefulhow you cry and smile at the same timehow your muddy brown eyes have dark circles like canyons
how you twist your hair and pick at your lipshow you have terrible postureand scars that you worship like gods
how nothing is ever surface-level with youhow your fire burns too hothow you’re always tiredbut still stay up late to talk to the moon
you are a woman from a dreama muse out of a faerie talethe love of my lifefrom the poem in my heart
See behind the scenes of Wild Greens. Our Ko-fi page contains concept art for past issues.
Artists and Contributors
Robin Brownfield (she/her) is a former sociology professor in Collingswood, New Jersey who turned to mosaic art after becoming disabled. She was featured in a FOX-29 (Philadelphia) News report because, after sharing a series of award-winning “Black Lives Matter” mosaic portraits online, she was commissioned by Tamika Palmer to do a mosaic portrait of her daughter, Breonna Taylor, whose death, in part, launched a rebirth of the Black Lives Matter movement. That portrait can be seen in the documentary Bree Way: Promise Witness Remembrance. Her award-winning artwork has been in galleries in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York City, Las Vegas, Norfolk, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, and San Francisco, and has recently received praise from Dr. Jane Goodall. She recently finished supervising a community mosaic mural project entitled “Childhood Memories,” which she designed at Thomas Sharp Elementary School in Collingswood, NJ. Visit her website, www.robinbrownfieldmosaics.com, to see more of her work.
Christina Dappollone McGovern
Christina Dappollone McGovern (she/her) is a 25-year veteran English, creative writing, and theater teacher from southeast Pennsylvania. Christina spends most of her time at home with her husband and two children, and at Ridley High School directing the Ridley Drama Group. When she is not educating children, she enjoys spending time reading, writing, sewing, singing, traveling with her family, and performing in her own theatrical endeavors. You can follow Christina on Instagram @christinadappollonemcgovern.
With a degree in anthropology and religion, Emily Solomon’s art is informed by observation and contemplation of the human experience. Solomon’s work bridges several styles, but is marked by a controlled design, metallics, and muted color palette. Through her painting, she explores themes of grief, memory, love, and recovery. She is a member of the Multae Manus Collective, and is a board member on the Pikes Peak Arts Council. Her work has been shown in galleries throughout the front range. Solomon lives and works in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Christian Ward is a UK-based writer who has recently appeared in Rappahannock Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Dewdrop, Mad Swirl, Dodging the Rain, The Seventh Quarry, Dipity Literary Magazine, Indian Periodical, and Streetcake Magazine. His first poetry collection, Intermission, is out now on Amazon.
Melissa Lomax (she/her) is a freelance illustrator, art teacher and cartoonist, with 20 years of experience in the creative industry. Some of her clients include American Greetings, Sellers Publishing, Great Arrow Graphics and Highlights for Children. Her comic 'Doodle Town' posts on GoComics.com, the largest catalog of syndicated cartoons and comics. When she is not in the art studio, she enjoys spending time in nature, drinking really good coffee, and 'everyday adventures' with her husband. Pop by her Instagram @melissalomaxart for weekly inspiration!
Artist and Writer
Lauren Kimball (she/her) lives in Philadelphia. She teaches literature and composition at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. In her spare time, she plays with paint, digital pens, words, and home improvement tools.
You can find her comics on Instagram @turtle_n_hare_comic.
Lynne Marie Rosenberg
Lynne Marie Rosenberg (she/her) is a performer turned advocate turned content maker turned visual artist. Lynne is the host and creator of Emmy-nominated "Famous Cast Words" on the PBS affiliate network ALL ARTS, plays Dinah on HBO’s "High Maintenance", and is the artist behind the Etsy store, Hungry Bodhisattva. www.LynneMarieRosenberg.com.
Megan Jauregui Eccles
Megan Jauregui Eccles lives in the foothills of San Diego and is a novelist, poet, and professor. When she’s not rehoming rattlesnakes, she plays Dungeons and Dragons with her five sons and hatches a variety of poultry. www.meganeccles.com
Elisabeth D. (she/her) is a French aspiring poet and writer. She learns to love the world through art and hopes one day to become a full-time writer and poet. She hopes people, or at least someone, will find comfort, peace, or perhaps both, in her writing.
Poetry Editor and Copyeditor
Myra Chappius (she/her) is the author of six works of fiction and poetry. While her passion lies with shorter creations, it is her aspiration to complete a full-length novel and screenplay someday. She enjoys reading, music, travel, and learning. When not doing mom things, she is working full-time, seeing the latest movie, or waiting an acceptable length of time before returning to Universal Orlando to satiate her Harry Potter obsession.
Jessica Doble (she/her) holds a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She's published two critical works: “Hope in the Apocalypse: Narrative Perspective as Negotiation of Structural Crises in Salvage the Bones” in Xavier Review, and “Two-Sides of the Same Witchy Coin: Re-examining Belief in Witches through Jeannette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate” in All About Monsters. Her poetry has appeared in PubLab and Wild Greens magazine.
Jacqueline (she/her) earned her BA in English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. She was a 2021 publishing fellow with the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor and co-editor for PubLab and UCR's Mosaic Art and Literary Journal. She is currently the fiction editor for Wild Greens magazine and a copyeditor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Arrow Journal.
Maggie Topel (she/her) is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. She designs our seasonal Wild Greens logo and social media avatar.
Hayley (she/her) creates the cover image for each issue of Wild Greens magazine and serves as the Arts Editor. Hayley is a social justice seeker, world traveler, rock climber, dog snuggler, frisbee player, event planner, and storyteller. She loves to paint with watercolors, embroider, and write. She grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, and to this day she still turns to those genres to help her make sense of the world. She calls Philadelphia home and wouldn't have it any other way. You can find Hayley on Instagram @hayley3390.
Rebecca Lipperini (she/her) is a writer, teacher, and academic living in Philadelphia, and the founding editor of Wild Greens magazine (hi!). She holds a PhD in English from Rutgers University, where she taught all kinds of classes on literature and poetry and writing, and wrote all kinds of papers on the same. Her essay on the soothing aesthetics of the supermarket was recently published in PubLab. She teaches in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.