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To save the body and voice of a poet

The teenager has been crippled by a devastating condition and he's reached out to a surgeon thousands of miles away. As it turns out, the doctor is himself a lover of poetry and dazzled by the power of the boy's talent.  Read some of Ekiwah Adler-Belendez's poems.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

As a specialist in corrective surgery for children with neuro-muscular disorders, Dr. Roy Nuzzo had seen many images of children who find it difficult to walk, to stand, even to sit up comfortably. He's often asked to view tapes and make recommendations on difficult cases. But receiving this tape, he says, was a miracle.

One tape had been sent to his New Jersey practice from a small mountain village in Mexico of three children with cerebral palsy. Dr. Nuzzo evaluated them, prescribing small measures to improve mobility -- until he saw the last child on the tape. Dr. Nuzzo believed that major surgery was required to straighten that child's body and save his life. So he sent off a request for X-rays. A few weeks later, a package arrived from Mexico. The X-rays inside confirmed his diagnosis of a life-threatening deformity, but the envelope contained something life-affirming as well -- books of poetry, written in both Spanish and English.

The fact that they reached this doctor, in a routine request for medical intervention, may indeed have been a sign of divine intervention because Dr. Nuzzo knows almost as much about meter and rhyme, as muscle and bone. He's not only a surgeon, but a lover of poetry and a writer, himself, and what he read that day stunned him.

Dr. Nuzzo wondered how someone so young, with such limited experience, could write with such limitless insight?  Was his genius somehow born of his disability?  The doctor couldn't say, but he was certain he had to save this child's life.

Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez is the son of an American father and a Mexican mother. In a native dialect, "Ekiwah" means "warrior." He's been battling cerebral palsy ever since he was born in 1987, 10 weeks early, weighing less than two pounds.

The following are full text versions of the poems excerpted on Dateline:


Why do poets die of hunger
more than once a day?
I watch your naked body
as I watch the flames;
everything you were before
has been stripped away.
Why do poets walk the weary road
and lie drunk in a dark corner on the floor?
You are silence, my lady;
from your womb words are born.
Restless lovers play among the stars;
they seek you,
know every line of your face unknown.
They want to take refuge
in the silent folds of your heart;
yet their lips ache to draw words
as you paint the skies.


I feel like a tree that has no branches,
like a warrior that has failed his mission,
locked in a room with no door, no way out.
The earth like empty streets -
no birds singing, only cars rushing by.
I don't even feel like the air
or a rock that never moves.
I feel like nothing.
I feel like the sea will swallow me,
the sky will fall on my head.
The worst of thieves has robbed my smiles,
I am a ghost, an illusion,
I know Nothing, and Nothing knows me.


I am in the white prison
Of those with disjointed, feverish limbs
Yet at times when there is no noise
I become the white prison
And I am the snow of white and clean ideas
I am the snow of white sharks
In a sea of mercy
And around me there are luminous hands
That open the wound
Those luminous hands speak to my bones
Each word they say is a gift
The metal that they temper makes the strongest sword
I see that emerald fire in me
In that sweet hour I discover
Through being the slow snake
That spark of warm intelligence
I am the warrior

Poems are reprinted with permission from Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez.