Blue Electrode by Margaret Barbour Gilbert

By Lynette G. Esposito
Poetry is such a personal thing.  Margaret Barbour Gilbert’s Blue Electrode published by Finishing Line Press Georgetown, Kentucky, takes the reader on Gilbert’s journey of seizure and recovery. Her images reveal truths about the human condition.  In one moment, one is fine and in the next moment, one is on the floor.
In her poem Aura on page two, she presents in two stanzas a vision of her waking:
I felt like angels
were holding me up
when I woke this
morning.  I could see the grey sky
through the green trees
of my window pane,
the clear blue day,
the bright black
hair of angels.
It was as if
I were high above
the earth,
an angel’s wing
into the mirror
of my life.
What an interesting way to wake up.  She has strong use of place and time in this poem and the awakening is common to all of us in how the first thing we see affects us.  She uses color effectively.  The poem is lean as if Gilbert took a surgeon’s instrument to it. It is not sentimental but displays observable images of a needed courage and a protection of an angel reflecting her life.
Her title poem, Blue Electrode on page four, details her experience in having her brain wired to machines to discover why she is seizing.  She talks about a blue scarf she uses to hide the wires. The three stanzas in this poem are numbered as if to indicate stages of the procedure. At the beginning of the poem, she states:
At the moment, I am all wired up and
buckled into a $9,000 belt with tape recorder
–getting a 24-hour recording of my brain.
Gilbert is again strong on time and situation. In the second stanza she talks of plastic flowers and graves and her mother thinks the words Epilepsy and Woe are synonymous.  While the mother’s visit may have been meant to be soothing, obviously not so much.
In the third stanza (stage) she wraps a blue scarf around her head so she can go to the grocery without the wires showing or her hair that she relates to medusa snakes.  She describes the scarf as a gift her father wanted to give to her mother.  It has little flowers on it.  She sends the scarf to her mother but the last line makes so much clear to the reader.  She returns it.
On page twenty-eight she presents her poem, Recovery.
Long gowns lie in my arms like dead lovers,
corpses that nestle against my shoulder and climb
down my back like vines clinging to a trellis.
In this poem she turns the gowns into taffeta and gathers them together in her arms.  It is as if she has taken back what she had lost.
The book is slim—only thirty pages.  But this is powerful in situation and clear-sited images of what it is to suffer from a seizure disease.  It is well worth reading.
 Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

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