The Falling Sickness

Of all the gifts a poet can be given, epilepsy is the richest. I fell when I was four. It was kept hidden by my family; my father had it scrubbed from my medical records.

But my life was already deeply private, because I was a child poet and followed up an old, rusted way until I saw, in the same place where sparks and convulsions start, a vista I was too young to describe. I was enfranchised a citizen, of its creation everlasting. I saw its sleeping stars. No matter how many arrows I fire until my last poem, I can’t capture all its range. But every poem before and after is a generating seed, traveling in its sky.

That is why I am grateful for my epilepsy; the population of words is not privileged. When Emily Dickinson, who was confined by her epilepsy wrote that hope is the thing with feathers she meant poetry. She meant that a soar of poems should bear away the dispossessed and, always, give them voice. When I seizure, the rent is unpaid. My only car halts on the interstate, and others hurry by. My legs convulse and danger comes. If I’m in a restaurant, the adjoining table stares, unwelcome, at a stranger.

But not my beloved wife. When we met, I told her that I’d fallen down a stairway, and now sometimes I’m anxious or unsteady. “The disease of kings”, she simply said.

How long since we changed the oil?

When I seizure, I’m confused. I

never told a soul until I met you. I was

afraid of small towns; by force

of will I begged sometimes to be

excused. Grand mal. you said, it

sounds so lovely; it sounds like

a painting Sargent might make

of Venetian canals. Let’s walk

starling, you said, and if

you drop, I’ll stop mid- flight

to dip in foam.



Charles Bane, Jr. is the American author of The Chapbook (Curbside Splendor, 2011) and Love Poems (Kelsay Books, 2014). His work was described by the Huffington Post as “not only standing on the shoulders of giants, but shrinking them.” A writing contributor to The Gutenberg Project, he is a current nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida.