Monday, April 30, 2018

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Geneva, NY - Elizabeth Blackwell To Her Sister Emily

Prompt: Draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard.




I found this vintage postcard while doing research for inspiration, got curious and looked up Geneva, NY. It turns out that quite a few well-known people have either lived in, or passed through, Geneva - among them Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, who was the first woman in the United States to be awarded a medical degree. She studied at Geneva Medical College (now known as Hobart College), and went on to blaze a trail, both in the field of women in medicine, and in her commitment to social reform.

More about her remarkable story can be found here.  I used her story as a springboard for the prompt, in the form of a fictional postcard / letter to her younger sister Emily (who became the 3rd woman in the US to receive a medical degree).



GENEVA, NY: ELIZABETH BLACKWELL TO HER SISTER EMILY

Rain makes me think of Bristol, of Wilson Street, your dear old rag dolly leaking stuffing, your shrill demands of  Lizzie make her well! Back then all it took was a needle, thread, and patience. Now in this place, I am become the thread, squeezed through a needle’s eye and stretched into a shape not my own. I am a foot in a sea of eyes, feeling my way through the days. Where the men say, We can, I cannot – I must. The streets are wet black ribbons slick with dreams, under a phosphorous moon. I feel an overwhelming urge to run downstairs into the rain and roll in the puddles until I am drenched, black dress dripping and draggled. I want to go to sleep feeling the weight of dreams drying on my bare skin, to wake in the morning and put on the hopes which have soaked, with the rain, into my garments.






6 comments:

Merril Smith said...

I love this--beautifully written, and this: "Where the men say, We can, I cannot – I must." I suspect that may have been true.

Shuku said...

Thank you so much Merril! Yes I think so. She was the only woman in the entire medical college, and she only got in because the students unanimously voted yes to her application.

Jane Dougherty said...

It must have been hell for her. Medical students even now are pretty macho. I love those streets like slick black ribbons.

Shuku said...

It must've been, yeah. What amazing fortitude, that's for sure. Thank you so much! I've had ribbons on the brain ever since I saw that postcard...

Anonymous said...

What a lovely and somehow chilling poem. Very nicely done!

Shuku said...

Thank you so much Ileea! I wonder if I could ever have been that brave, to challenge convention so radically. <3 I'm glad you liked it!