Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the major transitions I’ve made in the past couple of years. First I returned to my hometown of San Francisco after living long enough in Jackson, Mississippi, to call that city home as well. More recently, I’ve relocated to the Los Angeles area (to study screenwriting, as so many who relocate to Los Angeles do). It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that these are three very different cities, and that the adjustments related to the moves have been substantial! For several months now, I’ve been working (sporadically) on a poem that reflects on some of the effects of these and previous “bounces,” but that piece has been stubbornly refusing to be quite right. I hope to complete and share it soon.

In the meantime, I’ve revisited something I wrote a year or so ago, about halfway through my “sabbatical” in San Francisco. This piece focuses on one particular effect that I’ve more than once felt in the wake of change: denial (not refusing to believe that things have changed, but refusing to feel the pain and loss associated with the alteration–because even when change is desired and good, as these recent transitions have been for me, there is almost always still some degree of loss involved).

Having moved to L.A. just as I was beginning to feel re-rooted in San Francisco, I find this poem once again descriptive of my general state (though the terrain here is less hilly, and I haven’t had blood drawn recently). So, here’s my nod to a phenomenon that can be quite helpful when one needs to “take a licking and keep on ticking,” but which I hope soon to speak of in the past tense…


It started when I wrenched myself
from a people and place
made inexpressibly dear
through years of sharing
life’s buoyant joys
and plunging sorrows.

This self-imposed separation
produced an emotional paralysis
that I at first thought was good
because it kept me
from crying.

But lately I’ve begun to wonder
what else it may have kept me from
as I go through days
in a daze,
navigating a more level existence
in this city of hills
than any I have ever known

And while a doctor’s order
gave me the opportunity to see
that I do still bleed
when stuck with a needle,
the phlebotomist performed his task
with such dexterity
and gentleness
that I yet do not know
if I still can feel pain.

© 2010
Alexis Spencer-Byers


2 responses to “Numb

    • Thanks, Heather! If I’m recalling correctly, it was the incident at the doctor’s office that first got me thinking about the topic of “things that should hurt”–or at least, that put the germ of the poem in my head. Appreciate your interest in the other piece–I’ll get back to work on that straightaway…

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