The front cover of this collection shows the outline of Africa completely filled with the names of patients ("Tyra Lynette Deja Nya Rovert Marqui Fatima Terry Alexia Michon Ty . . . ") On the last page, poem #120 consists of an outline of the United States of America, also completely filled with the names of patients, also African. The poems in this collection constitute a journey through these Dark Continents, both of which lie within.

Kelley Jean White stakes out her territory very clearly: "I suppose I embarrassed you / at all those mainline / plastic surgery parties / talking Quaker and poor and idealism" (3). There are no elegant parties, nor plastic surgeons, after page 3. Instead, persons like Shawanda live here: "At seventeen, Shawanda has never spoken. / Her brother easily carries her frail body / into the exam room--37 pounds" (36). And the nine year old girl who delivers her baby by C-section: "The nurses said it was the worst thing / they’d ever seen . . . She took her to her grandmother’s home / to raise. / The man did time / for assault." ("Freedom," 55)

But the poet hasn’t lost hope at all. She is filled with love and humor and imagination: "I dream I’m marrying this guy I used to work with who spent a lot of money on his hair" (73). "I musta been looking pretty down / when I left you today . . . " because the legless man pulling his wheelchair to his favorite begging spot said, "love, you gotta be always looking up . . . I just smiled and looked at / my too big shoe feet" (118).


In her author’s note on the back cover of an earlier collection, The Patient Presents, Kelley Jean White writes, "I have turned to poetry in the last few years because I have to . . . " She speaks of the violence, poverty, and abuse among the families of her patients and in the community she serves; and she intimates that poetry is, for her, a natural healing response.

These poems widen and deepen the world Dr. White explored in The Patient Presents (see annotation in this database.) Here, she tears down more of the barriers; here, she exposes her own vulnerability clearly and movingly: "You spoke in Quaker meeting / about a book written / by a former Prisoner of War . . . these who expected fairness / were most easily broken. / God help me: / I still expect / the world to be fair." ("POW," 80)


The People's Press

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