Unnatural Disasters By Emma Rebholz

Unnatural Disasters

My mother, a west coast native,
wakes to what she thinks
is an earthquake in southern Florida,
but the reality is even more unprecedented

Still asleep in the bed next to her,
she finds that my body has learned
to move independently,
a little girl working her way
up the Richter scale.

That morning I will wake up
in the hospital waiting room
wearing Hello Kitty pajamas,
unsure of how or why I am there.
My mother will thank God
and curse him in the same breath.

Epilepsy is a foreign word in a middle schooler’s mouth.
When my friends compliment my medical bracelet I smile,
but I think of them running their thumbs over the words:
Emma Rebholz. Epilepsy.
Four syllables and four again
they are equal parts my identity.

I know what it’s like to lose control of my own body.
I collapse on the floor in the living room
the same day a hurricane hits.
My synaptic misfirings don’t seem
so different from the power outages.
When the lights come back on
the TV blares the same static
I saw while I was falling,
not even able to call for help.

Back at school,
I hit a boy with a heavy book
for pretending to have a seizure,
which involves him rolling his eyes back into his head
and a half-hearted shimmy.

At home, my father knocks on the bathroom door
to make sure I don’t drown in the bathtub.
I make ripples in the water with my hands.
Sometimes they turn into tidal waves.

I keep the bracelet on even in the water,
but a few years later I will shed it like an old skin.
I will forget the feel of the syllables under my thumb.
I will know what it feels like to be in control of my own body,

but I will remember the static
like an aftershock every time
someone makes a seizure joke.

And I will sit, silent like the way
I fell in the living room,
while a boy explains what a relief
it was when his dog with epilepsy finally died.

By Emma Rebholz


Emma Rebholz is a sophomore Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College with a lot of feelings. Her poetry has been previously published by or is forthcoming from Voicemail Poems, The Emerson Review, The Misanthropy, and Souvenir. She probably wants to be your friend.

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