a woman writing poetry about oak leaves and trees

An Ode to My Body's Resilience 

Last updated: December 2022

When I was eleven years old, I sat on my bed, hugging my stomach and hoping my period cramps would disappear. I was (and still am) a voracious reader. I needed a distraction from my pain and reached toward my bedstand to grab a book.

By chance, I gripped a collection of poetry.

Poetry can calm the mind

Nearly twenty years later, I cannot remember the poems I read that day. However, I remember that the poems brought me comfort. I was never much of a poet, but the words on the page comforted my soul.

It turns out that many other people have benefited from the healing power of poetry. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Medical Humanities found that patients who enjoy poetry report feeling more manageable pain levels than they might experience when they don't read or write.1

Reading poetry may also help reduce a person's stress and help them relax.

I love being outside, but when I'm having an endometriosis flare, I struggle to leave my home and enjoy the great outdoors. During these difficult moments, reading and writing poetry helps me reconnect with the world outside my sofa or bed.

Turning pain into something beautiful

Odes or sonnets about life and nature made me think of beautiful summertime walks or springtime rain showers. Endo flares can feel ugly.

Menstruation is natural, but endometriosis made me feel like a natural bodily process was eating me alive. Poetry helped me take these ugly moments when I was bleeding and in pain and write about something beautiful.

Even when I was cursing my body, poetry helped remind me that all living creatures are resilient.

In the poems I read, trees were bashed down by the wind and rain. Still, the trees stood strong.

Each month, after my endo flares calmed down and cramps stopped ripping through my abdomen like lightning, I also outlasted the storm.

Bookworms like me, who are chronically ill, may add poetry to their pain management toolkit. The point isn't to write good poetry when you're in pain.

Instead, poetry can be therapeutic. Writing a poem can help distract me and express my emotions as I wait for my pain medications to kick in.

An Ode to My Body's Resilience 

Come while the oak trees turn bright
And while the crows whirl
In the autumn breeze, wings a'curl
To soar above the gale.
This morning, my face looks pale -
Normally I'm better at hiding the pain
That saps through my bones. "Shame,"
I think, since my leaf-red lipstick brings out
The pallor from my cramps. I can't help but doubt
My body every month, every day;
But then I hear my own voice say,
"Body dearest, you are good,
For the trees in the oldest wood
Show the scars that mark their survival.
Body, you are a record, an archival
Song that sings of how, despite the aches that startle me awake
And the oak tree that bleeds red each fall; I bend but will not break.

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