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Poetry Moment: Sara Grossman and 'Disability Impact Statement (In the hospital)'

Poet Sara Grossman
Poet Sara Grossman

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Disability Impact Statement” by Sara J. Grossman.

Sara J. Grossman is the author of the poetry collection, Let the House of Body Fall, from which today’s poem is drawn. Grossman lives in Philadelphia, where she is an Assistant Professor at Bryn Mawr College.

Grossman describes her own work on Let the House of Body Fall as “an exploration of physical disability in post-September 11th America.” Her characterisation highlights the connection between the personal and political in poetry. The title, “Disability Impact Statement,” brings us into the political arena and calls to mind our legal system. The courtroom is where we would most likely encounter an impact statement—an oral or written testimony read at the sentencing of a person who has caused injury to another. Grossman leads from that title right into the “origin story” of the poet’s disability. In this way, she threads personal narrative to the larger questions at the heart of the poem. Do we have the language to speak of a disabled person without focusing on what is “missing”? Who in this poem has been injured and who has done the injuring? What does it mean for a culture to elect a leader who mocks his own citizens? The poem doesn’t answer these questions. But by connecting individual experience to public rhetoric, the poet asks us all to hold ourselves to account. “Disability Impact Statement” reminds us that when we perpetuate false narratives of disability and ability, alike, we do so at the peril of our collective humanity.


Disability Impact Statement

In the hospital
I was missing
a piece of my body

to my mother
they said
a piece was missing

to have seen her face
when I was missing
is an origin story I wrote

in 5th grade I wanted
to be a plastic
surgeon in order

to reattach the missing
body like
on TV

there was a video
of Trump
where when he gestured

with his hands
an accordion would play
and all I could think of

was how hands make sounds
and how the dictator does not deserve
the hands

in the hospital where were
my hands
I would make

such good use
of them

That was “Disability Impact Statement” by Sara J. Grossman.
Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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