Language of defiance and expression

American wheelchair user, poet and author Christopher Reardon is sharing his story and poetry with ROLLING INSPIRATION. His poetry is shared weekly on our social media pages. This is his story (don’t read if you’re a Donald Trump fan!) …

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of eight. It was the safest kind, but on the cerebellum. After I had proton radiation to kill the tumour … well … the shit hit the fan. (This isn’t one of those stories.)

It was the last assignment of seventh grade. We had to create a book of all the different types of poems. At this point in time, I had been in a wheelchair for two years, and my friends were all basketball players (no one else looked like me). What I’m trying to say is that I no longer had a “thing”. In a way, I was lost.

To be honest, I sloughed off most of the assignment until I had to write the last poem. The final poem could be about anything, in any style. So, I wrote a poem inspired by my disability. It felt – “euphoric” is the wrong word – just right. After reading my poem to the class I remember thinking of the feeling I lost when I couldn’t play basketball. There it is. I smiled. (This is not that story, either.)

I am 31 now, have a Master’s degree in English, and have self-published four books. All of those books include poems, and two of them are strictly poetry. I created a website, and, during the first week of the Trump presidency, in an act of defiance, I began posting one of my poems every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for free. I have posted 68 poems so far, and will continue posting through the new year.

All the proceeds from my self-published books go to Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, the Academy of American Poets, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (where I was a patient). I thought the thinker Thomas Friedman was being hyperbolic, eye-roll worthy when he insinuated to Charlie Rose that a Trump presidency would be equivalent to a political 9/11.

I no longer think that. The entire world is laughing at America. My beloved arts – the most individualistic, expressive, and, arguably, American activity we can participate in – is being assaulted daily. And as someone who lives at home, off disability checks, and uses Medicare, I just hope I can survive America.

I don’t think things change that much. In regard to the presidency, the status quo is usually kept, and there are one or two decisions that really impact peoples’ lives. So, when friends vote for someone they know will lose or say “Why vote?” I respond “The Iraq War”. In the future, I have a suspicion that I will be saying “Trump”.

So, share your poems and stories, post your paintings and photos online, sell your crafts on Etsy or your websites, keep playing sports for all of us to enjoy, and please keep doing the important scientific research that will improve the quality of all our lives.

As Al Pacino said in Michael Mann’s Insider – a film about free speech: “What’s broken here can’t be fixed.” No, it can’t, but it’s on us now to lead by example and make America new.

You can read all of Reardon’s poems, learn more about him, and purchase his books on his blog This Road I Roll. You can also follow him on Twitter at @CR_Reardon.

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