Chatti’s book is an unusual and compelling mix of the medical, sexual and (ir)religious. At least somewhat autobiographical in nature, she recounts in poems her own medical struggle and how it conflicted with both the sexual and religious parts of her life. That’s not quite accurate. She presents a triangular conflict with the points of contention moving in all directions. Most memorable (and to some, audacious) are the poems that humanize Mary, poems that struck me as both bold and true. The medical ones are often tense because so much about them involved question marks. The ones that detail her interactions with male doctors who pressed for an aggressive treatment and promised her she’d be ready for bikini season – well, I’d like to know that a group of male medical professionals have read them and taken them to heart. A necessarily essential part of all three points of the triangle is the question of what it means to be female, as a patient, as someone in a physical relationship, and as someone trying to find a way to reconcile herself with her religion. From the haunting cover photo to the final poem, the masterpiece that gives the book its title, this is a complex collection that merits rereading, reflection and conversation.
Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake