The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar is a brilliantly executed book of poetry by Emily Schulten. Every poem in this collection will elevate a reader’s expectation of what poetry ought to be.
Emily connects family, nature, love, death, and medical procedures into seamless metaphors that will have you crying, cringing, and clapping.
The poem Dialysis is one example of Emily’s extreme honesty, leaving the reader with the feeling of witnessing what Emily and her brother went through.
Before I gave my brother my kidney, they pierced
a hole in the middle of his body, inserted a tube
and left it there. His wife’s yellow mixing bowl
rested between his knees, filling with his vomit
until I emptied and rinsed it, because at first
all the fluid funneled into his stomach
made him sick.
After reading Saltwater I was left with feelings of beauty and sadness. With seemingly effortless writing, Emily ties near tragedy to nature in a way that is rarely seen.
All of the Great Salt Lake could cradle me well enough
to make music of the ringing reminder inside my head,
my surgeon’s words that after all of this my brother may
still wake without my kidney, my body having failed
his failing body.
If you have the pleasure of getting to read the poem Check-in, you’ll likely get a Frankenstein vibe that adds a horror chill to a poem that already gives you phantom pains in your kidneys.
A team will take the kidney
from the space inside near my womb, they’ll connect it
to the wires in Robbie’s body and flip the switch to make it
work there—electricity buzzing on in a quickly darkening room.
A close friend of mine is dealing with failing kidneys, and as someone who has volunteered to at least be on his donor list, The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar made me think of my life long buddy. Living organ donation is often thought of as a beautiful, wonderful gift from a near angelic, selfless human being in service of someone who can’t live without it. This book of poetry made me witness every side of the process. There are accounts of the illness, what really goes through a donor’s mind, how they feel about losing a part of themselves, how they relate to a lifelong scar, and how they are scared and nervous about what happens next.
There are many other poems that aren’t about kidney donation in this collection, and no matter which work you’re reading, you’ll get a smart metaphor that leaves you with conflicting feelings.
I can’t write this enough. Every single poem is a gut punch of beautiful emotions! This is poetry like nothing I’ve ever read before, and as someone who has been writing the stuff for nearly 30 years, I highly recommend that you too read Emily Schulten’s The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar.
My sister used to say that her daughter, my niece, who had died in her teenage years had become a butterfly. A similar message to this is portrayed in the poem On the Study of Butterflies. The speaker in Emily’s poems comes with experience. She comes with the knowledge of death. She understands how it works, and while she creates beautiful metaphors around it, she doesn’t look for stories to make anyone feel better about death. She puts it out there. She busts myths open, and she makes it real, sometimes painfully real in the most beautiful way.
It became clear that we are all chasing
our own breath, the clock’s flutter,
the sureness of wet earth, and
the chase itself.
If you’re ready to experience a style of poetry that will leave you saying: “WOW,” out loud, check out Emily Schulten’s The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar.