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“Etymology of Late: The Unraveling” by Gwenyth Wheat

In February of 2023, we released our third Open Call: How might we reflect and reimagine wellness in public health as art, letters, stories and poetry? The following is a poetry submission we received from this open call.

“This poem is a part of a current chapbook in progress, called The Etymology of Late. “Etymology of Late: The Unraveling” reimagines wellness in public health through the framework that the pandemic provided — going home. Wellness is a dad’s t-shirt. A blanket. A familiar drive. The scattered lines in conversation with topics such as superstition, anxiety, attention, energy, and comfort reflect wellness as a state that requires innovation, self-reflection, and oftentimes discomfort. The poem is a call to the internal (what are we wrestling with) and the external (what threads are connected to others). It matters because sometimes the only thing we really need is a space to ask questions and to admit the vulnerable — like how wellness can feel like a sweet madness — and know that we will still be okay.”

Gwenyth Wheat

Etymology of Late: The Unraveling

Because of course I’m an anxious driver so
I’m wearing Dad’s The Wailers Band shirt a kind of
fabric to sink into, to let me rest in superstition— sweet
belief the threads keep cars between mustard lines
and the grip of the tag to the collar is stronger
than storm clouds waiting in rumbling wings but
oh how I love the cloth reassuring my vertebrae
to keep going down the highway begging to feel lonely
so I daydream washed out colors bleed comfort
if the sky views rain in a similar vein—cleanse
me, deliver me to the front porch of my home, caressed
while I convince myself music and fabric help me
because a different type of energy lives within
threads defying the need to be tied neatly
together so I’m wrestling my way back pressed
against traffic to get home craving rootbeer, t-shirts
patio chats, evening coffee, knit blankets and
jazz trumpet from a record player, March madness
squeaks and shouts from the living room
to get our attention. Call us all with a whistle. ————

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