Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

A Journal of Rehabilitation

Eliette Markhbein
New York, New York, USA

Poet and artist’s statement: I started to write poetry a year after a traumatic brain injury and damage to my spine, the result of being struck by a speeding car. It stemmed from the necessity to escape pain and mental chaos as well as the physical and emotional seclusion it brought along. Writing allowed me minutes of stillness and peace and helped me find a way through and out of despair. 

Though complementary, the poems and the drawings originate from different perspectives, emphasize other aspects of the issues at hand and fulfill separate quests. For example, the poem “Braced-up” addresses issues of self concept and acceptance, while the illustration was drawn live as a series of sketches exploring feminity and searching for my own after the accident.

The poems presented are part of a larger collection called A Journal of Rehabilitation, which illustrates universal aspects of disability and rehabilitation, focusing on 3 periods: succumbing, hoping, and coping.

“Braced up,” “Eternal Rhythms,” and “I So Miss Us” are from the succumbing period, which articulates emotional distress, pain, depression and unbearable loneliness. “Travel” is from the coping period and speaks of group identification.

By making issues “public,” writing creates for me a safe distance from which to explore and assess them and ultimately gain control over them. This once removed position allows me to engage a dialogue within myself and with others that generates clarity, compassion, humanity and growth.


I So Miss Us

Where have the playfulness
passionate discussion
sense of strength
and unity gone?
We walk on glass shards
afraid of each other’s
and our own explosions
locked away in pain
silently crying alone
grieving the light
and graceful dancers
we were not so long ago.
Where have the laughs
tumbling freedom
gentle touch, teasing
kisses as we cook gone?
My body is a casket
dark from fear
tight from despair
frigid from pain.

Your time is
spent away from home
away from me.
Where have
the rejoicing in Fall
sun-filled mornings,
the lazy afternoon
the comforting arms

You are lost
and so am I
in the maze of my
in the dread of your
Burnt out, listless
we proceed
to where? to what?





"I So Miss Us"




"Braced Up"

Braced Up

I have become a Frankenstein,
patched up high and low
and in between.
From neck to feet
braces, braces, braces
holding me up
reshaping me.
Each set of
hard shells,
Velcro straps
and metal hooks,
cutting me
tearing me.
Yet, when I disrobe
and shed my carcasses
your eyes rest
on my curves
and you call me beautiful.




Hello, your destination is
Atlanta flight is delayed
heavy weather down there.
Connections will be missed
layovers will be long
fatigue and despair will settle in.

The wheelchair waits
at the counter,
parked by my side
let’s go before
I explode in tears.
Your hand clutches mine
as we zip through the airport
sobs build up and flood my face.
Panic sets in, stomach, heart
shoulders, down my legs
Thirty second cycles of hell.

You say people will think
I am sad to leave you—
I smile, I am.
Three loops of 30 seconds already.
I kiss your face lightly
your lips softly
you disappear behind security.


Hi, I wear a brace
need to be checked
by a female officer.
Yeah, yeah. Go through.
I ring loud and clear.
Take off your watch
sure, it’s not the watch,
it’s the brace. Mam, do as you are told.
No watch—I ring loud and clear
Do you have any metal on you?
Huh … a brace?
Please remove it
Can’t—why not?

Ok … Step to the
side, voices cry in the
walkie talkie “female
officer to …”
Now the wait bare feet
exposed to incredulous
suspicious looks
I am not normal
I am disabled
I am not a security threat.
Wheelchairs with gray-
haired ladies zoom by
I am not gray-haired.
My attendant huffs and
impatience, disapproval
annoyance, boredom.No curtains, no privacy
I am frisked—humiliated
I want to flee. I cry.
And the sun shines
and the breeze blows
and the trees sway
I will break away
my spirit will heal
I will feel whole again.





"Eternal Rhythms"

Eternal Rhythms

Injuries clawing at freedom

I move in the backdrop of life

filled with unspent tears

arms heavy with renunciation

yet fighting to remain alive.

Unable to bear the pain

I struggle to find

the strength, the light

to break through the tourniquet

to let life flow.

Craving eternal rhythms

the wind on my belly

the ocean’s pull

on the sole of my feet

I dream

the impossible dream:

to taste the unity

of space, body and mind

to know no pain

to live minutes of eternity

to dance the beat of the universe.


ELIETTE MARKHBEIN is the founder of the Therapeutic Arts Program, which serves the brain injury and spinal cord injury population in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. The program is the recipient of the 2010 “Best Practice Award” from the Society for the Arts in Healthcare. Eliette is formally trained in Studio Arts, as well as Neuro Art Therapy and Rehabilitation Psychology. To read A Journal of Rehabilitation in its entirety, please click on the following link:http://medhum.med.nyu.edu/blog/?p=106.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Fall 2010 – Volume 2, Issue 3

Fall 2010  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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