Storm Cloud Haze
Alessandra Wike, 93 pgs, Persimmon Moon Press, $7.04
A hybrid assemblage of poetry, reflective prose and photography, Wike’s debut offers glimpses from and about an awful period of the author’s life. After experiencing poor vision and splitting headaches, doctors discover that a tumour made of bone is pressing out from her skull.
The surgery to remove the culprit, ossifying fibroma from her ethmoid bone, is successful. But she is left with a prescription of lifelong regular monitoring and, as a side affect, a complete loss of her sense of smell.
But it is less her account of procedures and physical pain that might make you cry, shudder, or both. Rather, it’s the social. Wike becomes a pariah, too complicated or uncomfortable for seemingly everyone around her.
“So my coworkers joke about my surgery,” she writes after choosing to keep the severity to herself. “As if it’s not life-threatening. As if I don’t want to spend each morning curled up in bed, crying. I wish I could curl up in bed.”
Polaroid photos stitch together the textual fabric of the work, documenting different facets of her descent and recovery. Pictures of Wike’s long flowing
hair later reappear detached, shorn off so the doctors can cut her scalp from ear to ear and remove the fatal threat — her own bone after all. Later on, pictures tell us how she coped by watching V for Vendetta, in which Natalie Portman’s character gets her head shaved by a confusing, scary foe.
All of these fragments combine to give a view of humanity’s shortcomings when it comes to disease, illness and recovery.