MUSIC AS MEDICINE
Cancer, all over
Doctors prodded, tested
Overwhelmed, smothered, lost
And then the piano played
A soft smile
MUSIC SOFTENS US
The music makes us poets
Smoothing, rounding, shaping
Chipping away at the firm, unforgiving edges
The much softens us, making us poets
I dreaded her visits.
Not because she complained of arthritis, but because I had nothing else to offer.
We had tried every drug, every intervention, nothing worked. I felt ineffective.
One day, I asked if I could visit her home with my camera. To document how she lived.
One photograph changed our relationship.
In the image, she was slowly, painfully, pulling herself up the stairs.
Hunched over in agony, a hand gripped the railing, the other a cane.
After that, our visits were more relaxed.
Our conversations were deeper. There was laughter.
I still couldn’t take away her pain, but at least I could offer comfort.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis, music as politics, etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Dustin Grinnell is an essayist and fiction writer based in Boston. His writing combines medicine and the humanities and has appeared in Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, New Scientist, Vice, Perspectives in Biology & Medicine, Hektoen International, Ars Medica, The Awakenings Review and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine. He has an MFA in fiction from the Solstice MFA Program, an MS in physiology from Penn State, and a BA in psychobiology from Wheaton College (MA).