I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I have discovered how to post the Helicon videos to YouTube without glitches. Yay! The bad news is that for this particular video, a certain somebody tried to hand-hold the video camera (okay, that was me). When I watched the bit with Kasandra’s poem, it took about four seconds before I got all seasick. Thanks, past self. Now we all have to suffer.

“After Fifteen Days on the Kidney Transplant List,” by Kasandra Payne, begins at 5:30. Go listen to it first, I’m not kidding. Then we’ll talk. Start listening. Ready, set, go. I’ll wait.

Okay, you’re done listening now.

That last line sucker punched me as well as anything ever has. I suppose I should have seen it coming after hearing the title, but the rest of the poem is so perfectly disarming. You just listened to it, but let’s rehash.

The narrator wakes up, confused. Nothing’s on fire. The poem’s tone is “sheer hilarity with a side of social observation.” Everyone in the Helicon audience laughs (quite audibly, because I was holding the camera right next to the front row. My goodness). Our narrator falls asleep again. It’s not just a weird happenstance that she woke up, though; it’s her phone, and it’s still ringing.

By this point I had completely forgotten the title. If you asked me what it was I would have lied to you. I was just pleased to listen to this waking-up-is-terrible comedy routine. Kasandra includes such accurate details about a disorienting arousal, and she’s so funny. She also keeps everything just confusing enough to leave a bit of tension; the reader continues the poem to figure out what’s happening.Enjoy and learn from this effective writing. 

Then, with elaborate and cinematic slow motion, the speaker moves one arm out of bed to answer the phone…at one fifteen…in the morning.

There’s a kidney for her son.


Whiplash. Like dunking your head into a bucket of ice water, only the ice water represents all the emotions you are about to inhale on accident. There’s no further elaboration, so everything else the reader feels is pure empathy for this woman, her child, this family, the doctors; it’s adrenaline, it’s the end of the fear, or the beginning of a whole new leg of uncertainty that starts with a pajama-clad car ride.

In the actual real life story, Kasandra’s son survived. The medical team had to get the kidney inside him within hours, and there was indeed a hasty ride to the hospital, some confusion about the husband going to work, a successful operation, endurance through the infection that followed. Life. It’s not in the poem, because the poem is about waking up.

The last line is ice water, and it wakes me completely.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger




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