Taylor Carmen Savath


I don't really remember a time when I wasn't a writer. I've always talked a lot and listened a lot, so story telling just feels like part of me. I can't tell you my origin story because there have been too many. Every turn is a start of its own. Every time I thought I knew what kind of writer I was, I learned something new about the kind of writer I wanted to be. I'm still a lot of those people, many of them at once, but here's the story of my newest start.

Poetry readings have always been the closest I've come to sacred space, so as I sat in what used to be a church I should have expected an epiphany. There under the stained glass windows I couldn't seem to pay attention to the reading. Some small movement in the corner of my vision kept pulling my attention. Being a visibly disabled person my entire life has given me a sort of super power. I'm a master interpreter of body language. When you move differently (as I do) and spend a lot of time watching other people (as less mobile people tend to) you notice what movement is trying to tell you. So, when I looked at the friend who sat next to me, his told me two things. He was in pain, and he was trying to hide it. The trouble with speaking this kind of quiet language is that it becomes hard to ignore. I wasn't sure what to do next. Do I say something? Or do I let his aching secret be his? I went with the writer's magic third option. I scribbled a draft of the following poem on the back of my program:


When a friend exposes the aches
in his knees of the muscle pulled tight,
or bone wearing down
do you ask about the trouble?
Do you offer a cream a salve or a pill?
Or just name his suffering?
Of course.

Or maybe not.
Maybe if pain is not a metaphor
when there are no pills
when the salve won't help
maybe the kindest choice
is to laugh at his joke
and compliment his well fitted suit.

And in a fit of foolish courage, I passed it to him. I don't know if I breathed while he read it or when he wrote something on it and passed it back. I had been ready for quite a few responses but he'd marked it with corrections and this stumped me. Had he not understood what I was trying to say? Had he understood and taken offense? I had no idea. So, as talkers tend to do, I asked. Or really I babbled. I babbled so badly that I don't know what I said, but it was something like, "I'm sorry if I hit a nerve. I didn't mean to. I should have kept my mouth shut." Imagine something like that but nervously incoherent. This man had been my writing mentor. He still is. So, the thought that I might have harmed him with my attempt at empathy wasn't something I knew how to let go.

To my surprise, he said, "You're a wise woman Taylor Carmen. You made me feel seen. That made me feel human." I'm not the sort to cry often, or ever really, but I nearly wept right there. Then I remembered it wasn't just us. The crowd from the reading was still all around us. And when the girl in the wheelchair starts crying people kind of freak out, so I swallowed the tears but kept the message. You're the kind of writer who makes people feel seen. Go figure out how to do more of that.


Taylor Carmen Savath is a writer, speaker, and activist who has spoken at conferences for disabled students and their families all over the east coast. These experiences, along with being an active member of a local poetry community, offer her a unique perspective from which to write.