Someone Else's Pain


Poetry Editor Jason Schneiderman on “Someone Else’s Pain” by Brenna Working Lemieux:

As an editor at BLR, I read a lot of poems about what it feels like to suffer, to diagnose or be diagnosed, to be ill or to care for illness. As an editor, I have to be a “good listener”—the person who waits for the speaker to reveal experience. I firmly believe that writing is about intimacy, and that imaginative literature offers intimacies that are impossible in life. A poem about what it feels like to receive that information at a remove—to play my role as listener—immediately excited me. This poem talks about the difficulty of understanding. The obstacle that most literature works to overcome becomes the subject itself.

Brenna Working Lemieux
Brenna Working Lemieux earned an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She has lived in Chicago, Baltimore, Paris, and Galway, and currently resides in southern Illinois.
Spring 2012 cover


"Someone Else’s Pain" appears in BLR V12N1 (Spring 2012).

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Someone Else’s Pain , by Brenna Working Lemieux

You, who exult in fatigue, whom sweat salves,
whom motion girds like prayer, try to tell me
calmly that your new meniscus (transplanted
last summer, not yet healed) has torn, or turned,
or that scar tissue has crept between your ligaments—
you’re not sure—some driven-screw anguish
that flares when you move, gluts your knee
with heat;
---------your voice climbs in coils that you catch
and unsnarl before they snap, as if tuning a loose-
dialed radio, twisting out each snore of static,
and all I can do is nod or shake my head, offer
the sturdy focus I once used in art class to smudge
graphite across a page, trying in vain to capture
the way shadows defined my unclasped hand.