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This poem is describing the experience of someone who lives with chronic pain, indicated by the term of endearment of “dear familiar” towards pain. Speaking from experience, only someone who has lived with chronic pain can look this deeply into what pain means in general and to them individually. I felt like words helped me connect with the human pain experience more than visual art, such as a painting, because the descriptions reached deeper into my understanding. My question is: What is your interpretation of the nestlings in the third refrain?

Categorized as PSA

By harperm5

My name is Morgan Harper and I am a graduate student in VCU's DPT program. Originally from Ashburn, VA, I spent my childhood playing soccer, which led to an array of injuries that pointed me in the direction of the healthcare field. My interest in Physical Therapy was piqued when I had to through therapy myself and was furthered when I served as the Student AT Aide for 3 years in high school. I received a B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences with a minor in Medical Humanities from The Ohio State University. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, as well as reading. I love traveling with my family because I have a soft spot for history and learning about the past. You will find me cheering on the Buckeyes during college football season and the Washington Capitals during hockey season. Currently, I'm in my second season as an assistant soccer coach for a local Richmond U12 girls team and love sharing my passion for the game with them!


  1. I loved this poem, the first line really struck me. It makes sense how pleasure is the absence of pain, but couldn’t it be the other way around? I guess having it chronically would change the order of how I would perceive that. Thanks morgan!

  2. The nestlings in the third refrain remind me of someone with CRPS. This could present with something as slight as wind irritating the skin and causing pain. This may be a loose interpretation, but that is what it reminded me of. I really agree that this does stir the imagination quite a bit, and really appreciated your thoughtful comments Mo!

  3. This was a great poem that displayed the problems with physical pain, but also how it may be necessary to experience pleasure. I believe the nestlings chirring is comparable to people who experience chronic pain; their pain can cause them to be afraid of even the slightest aggravations (the wind brushing by). I hope that your own experience of chronic pain does not continue forever, and that you are able to pursue anything you would like without being inhibited.

  4. I really enjoyed the metaphor in this poem. I agree with Collins interpretation of the nestlings in the third refrain. This persons pain threshold is so low and they are sensitive to something as light as wind blowing. It makes you understand how living in a world where that causes them pain and irritation lacks the ability to truly enjoy those small things.

  5. To me, I think the nestlings can be interpreted in several ways. Firstly, taking them to be literal nestlings that she passes, this could be her feeling that her pain is so pervasive that it rubs off on other living creatures around her if she gets too close. On the other hand, taking the nestlings to be more of an abstract literary device, I think the nestlings may represent the “first” pain she experiences. Like the nestlings, crying from birth, she too has been suffering for what feels like her entire life. However, this poem is so deeply layered in metaphors and allusions that I honestly don’t know if I am interpreting it correctly.

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