March 26, 2013

Tish Pearlman: An interview and poetry about Life and Death

Tish Pearlman
Tish Pearlman

On Sunday afternoon, I went to the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts to hear Tish Pearlman, the Poet Laureate of Tompkins County, read her work. Tish interviewed me for her award winning radio show Out of Bounds earlier in the week (links below). The interview was relaxed and intimate as she asked about the issues I hold dear—bereavement, writing, and my experiences of love and loss. After the interview, Tish mentioned that she had experienced her own death when things went terribly wrong at the end of heart surgery.

As Tish read on Sunday, her images helped me understand what I had witnessed from the outside when my husband Vic had twelve cardiac arrests one long night in 2007. Medical staff tried to push me out of the room, but I stood my ground to witness his vulnerability and the aggressive roughness used to save his life.

Vic, a few months before his death
Vic, a few months before his death

When the doctors and nurses left a small space, I stood at the end of the bed, breathing, praying for his calm passage, holding his feet. Finally, I sat beside my unconscious, intubated, bruised and blood-smeared ragdoll lover and tapped a heart rhythm in the palm of his hand. Friends encircled the intensive care room, sat on the floor, and meditated as he was shocked back into life, again and again.

A few days later, he emerged into consciousness, overflowing with love, gratitude, and a depth of patience and kindness that remained until his death eight months later. He only remembered lifting his arms and reaching for help. Then blackness. I wondered about his experience, but he did not have words to say.

In Tish Pearlman’s poems, I heard words to describe the life-saving physical assault I had witnessed. I also heard the emergence back into life. About entering the blackness of death, Pearlman writes:

Did she make a wish as
she vanished?
Did she keep time with
the blood whispering in her
Did she pour her whole
life into the pool of
Spinning darkness?
Who broke the fall?

And in what she knew unconsciously:

But the heart heard the
whispers. The heart. Heard.
The. Whispers.

And in the emergence back to life:

I could shed tears for
what I have lost
Bittersweet, the coming back
to this,
My sunrise.

After hearing Tish read, I made my way to Buffalo Street Books to buy a copy of her book, The Fix Is In. I needed to read her words and let them sink in.

Nate Richardson and Tish Pearlman of Out of Bounds Radio Show

I hope you’ll listen to Tish interviewing me, aired this week on radio stations in the Finger Lakes area and on Live Stream if you live elsewhere. Below, you’ll find the press release with broadcast dates and times and links to live stream:

Out of Bounds Radio Show hosted by Tish Pearlman features writer and bereavement facilitator Elaine Mansfield, March 28 and 31.

Mansfield is a writer, blogger, and bereavement facilitator at Tompkins County Hospicare, where she facilitates groups for women who have lost partners or spouses and writes for the newsletter and website. Her blog was recently honored by as one of the top 18 great caregiver stories on the web.

The interview will air on the radio and by Live Stream at the following times:
Thurs March 28 at 7pm: WEOS-FM ( 90.3 & 89.7 Geneva region)
Live Stream: WEOS
Sunday March 31 at 11:30am: WSKG-FM (90.9 Ithaca, 89.3 Binghamton, 91.7 Cooperstown/Oneonta, 91.1 Corning/Elmira, 88.7 Hornell/Alfred)
Live Stream: WSKG
Also, Fridays, 3:30pm on WRNC-FM (WI) and Wednesdays,11am on KKRN-FM (CA)

Out of Bounds Radio Show won the 2008 NYSBA “Best Public Affairs Program Series” Award. I hope you enjoy the interview. I look forward to your response.


  1. March 31, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Robin Botie


    Great interview today, Elaine. Also, I have down in my calendar that Thursday, April 18th at 6PM Tish will be reading at the Library.

    1. March 31, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Yes. I hope to be there, too.

  2. March 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Kay Marie


    oops! The symbol didn’t work! I meant “HEART writing”.

    1. March 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thanks, Kay Marie. I got Tish Pearlman’s poetry book at Buffalo Street Books and rumor is that it’s also available at Amazon. Thanks for reading and responding. There is so much happening in Ithaca in the spring that it’s hard to hear about all of it–or if you live as far from town as I do, show up for all of it.

  3. March 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Kay Marie


    Oh, I wish I had known about the reading. I am going to buy the book this week. Excellent <3 writing!

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