[Video] Poetry as Medicine Cafe – Using Poetry to Live Well with Parkinson’s

Poetry Cafe

Last summer, a group of Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassadors came together for a Poetry as Medicine workshop with Wayne Gilbert. What began as a one-hour session turned into a monthly poetry jam that has resulted in far more than words on a page.

At our first ever Poetry as Medicine Cafe, these poets shared with us some pieces of their collection of work. Watch to be inspired by what they’ve learned, what they’ve written, and how poetry has become medicine to help them live well with Parkinson’s. You’ll walk away feeling understood, encouraged, and ready to pen something of your own.

Want more poetry? The poems featured in the Poetry Cafe can be found below.


Among weird experiences is dissociation.

Not the kind that cuts the reality cord
One with a lighter touch.

I witnessed a homicide
My next door neighbor.
The perp was her renter.
He stabbed her and
She couldn’t be saved.

Two years later to the day
His trial began.

He was a product of the prison system
From an early age
A system despicable in the way it mostly
Throws people away.
(And for profit—but that’s another poem.)

As a witness, I was required to testify.
The judge was a social friend.

Yet apart from feeling sad for the defendant,
And memories of the 911 recording
Like a masochist, I have saved,
What stays with me most
Is when
I realized, as I was sworn in
And called the judge, this person who I partied with,
“Your Honor”
I was no longer Wendy,
I was a witness

My routine
gets broken
every day.
Is destruction of routine
the best way to discover
its real meaning…
when the days,
even seconds
never go
as planned?

standing in the dark
shuffling in the paddock
off we go
round the corner
feel there but not there
over the river into kentucky
each stride brings me closer to the last
did i know it?
of course not!
they all pass me
pass me
i just cant keep up
i am drawing back
like a sink hole is dragging me back
i am being pulled out
back over the bridge
now the hills
each hill seems seems to pull me back
not gravity
but back and out
each climb pulls a little of me out
each downhill
shows my leg weakness
i am completely last so many times
i don’t know why (not then)
then there is the broom bus
too slow
too slow
people are long gone
finally the line
no tape
just the line
over to the med tent
this isn’t me anymore
this is no accomplishment
why cant i run?
i am pulled out of the group
pulled back to watch
that was it
that was the last

once run mt washington auto road
once run 26 marathons
once race bikes
once rock climb
now struggle to walk 1 mile
now stiff legs say no more
no more
there is a thief involved
where did he come from
no one knows
there are clues but no answers
more important what more will he take?
or when?
this thief comes when he wants
surely leaves his mark
sometimes take away
sometimes makes
hard to reach
no impossible
cannot beat this thief
he will always take
never give back
what thief does?
there is no battle
there is only the fight

I try to make the most of today,
No matter What!

As it just might be the best
of the rest of my days to come.

As my resources continue to dwindle
and my senses progressively fade….
No Matter What I feel like I made
today I am less than before.

With the daily struggle to stay the same
And little chance to ever be more
No matter what I do to endure
I will always be me.

But of me you may see
less or more as I push back
against the unyielding tide!
No Matter What I do my nemesis
tries to close the door.

Why would I take you anywhere?
Especially there!

To my private place,
where I go when I dare,
so not to stay here with you.

Even when you were here,
you were not with me.

We would drive to the county.
Going from here to there,
without a word between us.
I could see your lips moving,
as if to be speaking to me.

But you were sharing a story,
not from here and not with me there.

So, go there again,
but on your own.
Leave me here,
so, I can go there,
but on my own.

And I will keep my place to myself,
as you kept me out of your there.

T’was the day before Christmas
and all was underway
With the UPS and FedEx trucks
coming from every which way.
The Fundraising had been a success
and money had been sent!
And all I want is to get Brennan
his new Chair or be hell bent

I had ordered by the deadline,
And the money had been sent
The promise was made
I would have in hand

So, I waited all morn
for a truck to land
With the precious cargo
so much in demand.
But it came in two boxes,
assemble with care!
For the user may want
to be out on a tear.

Need help I cried,
for I don’t know how
So I called around
but was too somehow
T’was Christmas eve day
and all of them claim
That staff were exhausted
and one even lame.

Now all of the assembly
was up to me,
So, I opened the boxes
for instructions to see.
And with a sigh of relief
t’was easy to be
the assembler of this chair
even for me.

Before noon could pass,
it was looking good
To show Brennan the chair
Now assembled to lend
While on his porch he moved around
Only to hope to test it on the ground!

For Brennan this chair will be more
than just a place to sit and stare,
For it has now opened a door
Through which he will push and dare

And regain his mobility through
the gift of The GRIT Freedom Chair
Pushing with his arms
as once his legs could bare.
Brennan is now empowered
to go anywhere!

“Thanks to Grit Freedom Chair and the donors for making this possible”


Swing, Sit, Ride, Fly
Windy, Free, Gleeful, Time
You, Me, We
Minnie’s Mile, Down the Bumps
Follow Me!
You and Me, We Ski, We’re Free.
Trust Me!
You’ll See.
Just Be With Me.

Skin surrounds me, containing this physical body.
While thoughts, feelings, intention transcend physical barrier.
The ether surrounds.
Essence, soul, conscience and consciousness ebb and flow.
Tidal, tribal, pounding drums, heartbeat tapping.
Omnipresent, closest to God
Presence encapsulates a larger stage, contains the vapor.
Uncontainable, like herding cats
Presence gathers all.
Encapsulates totality, deconstructs complexity.
Opposites attract, my heart and mind magnets.
Polarity reversed.
Presence turns the magnet round.
Yin to Yang.
Plus to minus.
Presence all and none, one chalice embodies all.
Drink from that cup, for I am living water.
Swallow Holy Spirit.
Falling into an abyss of calmness where everything truly lives.
Vibrant Molecular Stillness…….

Dusk has settled
Meds wane
Time has come to put the day to bed

Planned relaxation
Wrapped in a shower and fresh jams
Teeth are cleaned for tomorrow’s noshes

One last chore, measuring out the morn’s magic pills
Making sure the water is filled.
Phone is charged
One last shot at today’s crossword
One more Netflix episode
say goodbye to today with gratitude

Pray for courage for the ’morrow.

COVID, you sly speck.
Beat my borders
Moved in on this healthy host
And took control.
14 days to go,

Fever, headache, blue mood,
All reminders of this uninvited guest
These symptoms, such pests
Can only rest, rest, rest.
10 days to go.

Got defensive
Armed my soldiers with C, D, and Zinc
Sent the fluids flowing, ’tween trips to the loo.
And Flooded out the foe.
5 days to go.

The specks, now booted out
My body must renew
Immunity army rearmed
Comfort food the ammo.
One day to go!

I see the end of the tunnel!
It’s really over, praise God!
The body, a miracle Creation,
Failing and arising.
2021, here I am!

Want to hear more from our ambassadors?

Join us for our upcoming The Victory Summit® Virtual Event: How to Live Well With Parkinson’s For People with Parkinson’s by People with Parkinson’s on April 2, 2021.

Come learn and be inspired by speakers and small group leaders who have been living with Parkinson’s anywhere from two years to 20+ years. They will share their best tips, most moving stories, and the actions they’ve taken to overcome their biggest challenges and most troublesome symptoms. By the end of this event, you will have made a host of new friends and gathered a wide variety of ideas to help you live well with Parkinson’s for many years to come.

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