Originally published in Willow Springs 82

From the author

Notes on “Neurosurgery Sonata”

Recent studies tell us that our brain cannot access the sensory details of a traumatic memory and the language to talk about that experience at the same time. Writing about such experiences is therefore challenging for any writer.

The head of someone I loved being sawed open for an unsuccessful surgery was an experience that haunted me—to know what was happening but not being able to be as close as I wanted to the ending of that story. I had tried many times to write about it, and each time, I became stuck on the images in my imagination, which resurfaced again and again. I couldn’t move beyond them. That’s when the idea of a sestina emerged; perhaps the answer was to not overcome what haunted me, but to jump on the carousel of those images.

I have always been fascinated by the brain and the way it is so random and yet so ordered. No two brains are identical, and each has its own organic architecture that arises from experience. Poems can be like that, and I feel this one told me how it wanted to be written.


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (the notorious NDT) is the voice I listen to via podcast (#startalkradio). He has not answered the question I emailed on gravity and time, but I’m sure he’s getting around to it.

Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans are the secret of life when I can get my hands on them—typically in December.

In between Decembers, I drink whiskey and listen to Gregory Alan Isakov and alt-J with a little Andrew Bird mixed in. Current solo dance party playlist: “Helena Beat” by Foster the People, “The Great Defector” by Bell X1, “Dissolve Me” by alt-J, and “My Shot” from the Hamilton Soundtrack, which I listened to for a full year straight. Playlist for productive crying and melancholy: “Today” by The National, “Colours” by Grouplove, and “Stable Song” and “Idaho” by Gregory Alan Isakov.

Dear White People should be required viewing for all Americans over 18.


About Brooke Matson

Brooke Matson is a poet and educator in Spokane, Washington. Eight years of teaching and mentoring at-risk youth deepened her study of physical science and the psychological effects of violence and loss. Her current poems explore the intersection of physical science—particularly chemistry, physics, and astrophysics—with human experiences of loss, violence, and resilience.

Matson’s first full-length collection of poetry, The Moons, was published by Blue Begonia Press in 2012 and was also included in the 2015 Blue Begonia Press boxed set, Tell Tall Women. Her poems have most recently been accepted to Prairie Schooner, Rock & Sling, Poetry Northwest, and Crab Creek Review. The 2016 recipient of the Artist Trust GAP Award with Centrum Residency and the 2016 winner of the Spokane Arts Award for Collaboration, Matson poetry has also been selected for regional anthologies such as Railtown Almanac (Sage Hill Press), and Lilac City Fairy Tales (Scablands Books).

She currently serves as the executive director of Spark Central, a nonprofit dedicated to igniting creativity, innovation, and imagination.