Found Poem by Blake Pohanka

Two Sides to the Story: Introduction


Narrative medicine has been a very fascinating topic for me to learn about, I find the various aspects of it intriguing and often times perplexing and profound. Reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” has resulted in a similar learning experience incorporating various emotions from feeling for the Lacks family to sharing in their anger of Henrietta’s treatment. Prior to reading the book, I questioned if Henrietta’s treatment would have been different had she been a white woman, though I knew the answer to this question was obvious I couldn’t help but feel anger stemmed from the immense racism of past generations and the realization that had Henrietta been white, there would be no book and we would be learning about a completely different story and topic. Yet, Deborah elected not to take this easy approach of pulling the race card and I give her a tremendous amount of credit for that and believe her desire to have justice for Henrietta is even more heartfelt because of it.


The course readings inform and uncover hidden meaning in my poem because several times throughout the text, it is evident that Deborah is not seeking revenge but is conducting herself in a classy way that indicates that she is not out to destroy those who have wronged her, but that she instead is just trying to find and make sense of the tangled situation that has unfolded and honor Henrietta’s singularity.


My hope with this poem is that the readers are made to realize that narrative medicine and emotion work are often not just based upon issues that can be tagged with a category such as racism; narrative medicine and emotion work are not about pointing fingers and “winning” nor fighting for recognition of being “right”, not about revenge or monetary compensation. Narrative medicine and emotion work are about genuine human feelings and emotions, about treating one another with the respect and dignity that each of us rightfully deserves.


When reading my poem, I hope that the readers feel the intense emotion and drive behind Deborah’s attempts to uncover the truth and discover the facts behind her mothers complex journey and entry into the medical world and to understand that while this issue is very well an issue of race, in her family’s eyes they just want to know about their relative and understandably so. I hope that the genuine, delicate and complex nature of narrative medicine and emotion work is called into question and brought to the attention of those reading the poem as they put themselves in the shoes of the Lacks family.


This poem will impact the community partners because it is likely that many of them have been in a situation, in their journey’s leading to Pennybyrn, that have caused them to feel helpless and that the whole medical field and industry is out to get them and wants nothing to do with helping them, nor communicating with them on a level ground, in a civilized and humane way. I believe that in some way, shape, or form that each of us has felt as though we have been schemed by doctors at one point in our lives and thus, can relate to the frustration that the Lacks family feels.



Two Sides to the Story


-Found poem by Blake Pohanka, excerpted from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, pp. 250,     .


Racism! Racism!

Everybody always yelling:

‘White man stole that black woman’s cells!’


Racism! Racism!

Everybody always yelling:

‘That white man killed that black woman!’


Racism! Racism!

That’s crazy talk,

we all black and white and everything else.


Racism! Racism!

Everybody always yelling

This isn’t a race thing.


This isn’t a race thing

There’s two sides to the story

That’s what we want to bring out.


This isn’t a race thing

If it’s about wantin to fry the researchers,

nothing about my mother is truth.


This isn’t a race thing

It’s not about punish the doctors or slander the hospital,

I don’t want that.


Racism! Racism!

This isn’t a race thing.

I don’t want that.

This isn’t a race thing.

I don’t want that.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. Print.


Birds Who Fly

Birds Who Fly

Stay outside just to watch them

Very active and happy

Make you happy from their singing


Make lots of noises

Chirp chirp

Love to hear them sing, beautifully

Early in the morning

In trees, in nest, for family and babies

Like a little child

Feathers cover their wings

Nice and soft

Blue bird, red, lots of colors

Fly to many places

Looking for food, you gotta eat

Mothers Garden

Mothers Garden

Yellow, red, black, white, any color

Her mother’s garden

Sun and rain,

I don’t like the rain

Spring and Summer

I like to smell the flowers

When it gets really cold bring them inside

Be gentle when you touch them

Spring time brings new flowers

The breeze feels nice against my skin

My mother’s garden was always shiny,

I would help her with the seeds.