ANC029: He Made It by Bill Ripley

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Following traumatic brain injury, structural damage and disturbance of neurotransmitter systems leads to a cluster of symptoms known as post-concussion syndrome. Standard physical ailments such as migraines, dizziness, and fatigue certainly intensify the challenges of recovery, yet pale in comparison to the psychological toll of a near death experience. Moreover, the litany of emotional side effects is further exacerbated by the impaired cognitive abilities associated with the healing process. A significant example of these impairments is amnesia, both anterograde (prior to the incident) and retrograde (after). An inability to clearly recall events that led to an occurrence is a mystifying feeling; vague memories of its consequences only add to the bewilderment. When the occurrence is a glimpse of one's own demise, words fail to convey the sensation that lingers long after.

An acute subdural hematoma brought on by the regrettably inadequate elasticity of standard playground blacktop kept Bill Ripley in a state of mental oblivion for much of June 2012 and beyond: blackout, surgery, coma, medicated stupor, general confusion. After weeks in a hospital bed, he only truly returned to himself in the time thereafter. As months turned to years, the thought of what was barely averted hung over his thoughts, along with all the textbook what if's? and why me's?; what was absent was a concrete grasp of how it came about and how he got through it. Conversations, treatments, meals, faces emerged through the haze only to disappear again. As time passed, he realized that this fog extended as far back as a year before his injury and spread to the subsequent months. Attempts to document this pivotal moment proved ineffective until he realized the words telling the story need not be his own.

Using the text of his wife's daily emails to friends and family during his hospital stay as source material, Ripley first constructed erasure poems detailing the ups and downs of his progress. Using numeric data from the astounding onslaught of insurance statements that continued to arrive long after his accident, he then arranged the fragments into short, random compositions by means of a detached illogic that rivaled the tactics employed by medical billing professionals. In this way, he has attempted to reverse engineer the chaos that exists for him in fleeting scraps. It is a puzzle comprised of tossed-off pieces with no clues and no solution, a memoir produced in the absence of memories.

Deck of 58 cards, handmade and numbered
$15 (US postage paid)