Stephen Arlen Maxwell was born March 7, 1996 and died January 13, 2003 due to complications following his bone marrow transplant. He was born this month so it seemed appropriate to publish this book, this month.
Deep Water is a collection of poems written during and shortly after Arlen’s treatment for ALL—Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia —and his subsequent death. In its entirety, Arlen’s treatment lasted 7 years.
These are all the poems I wrote during that period. Needless to say, there is not a lot of poetry to be found in witnessing and participating in the chemotherapy treatment of your child. This is not a diary, or account of procedure—the poems are a mix of chronicle and meditation.
The first chapter, Diagnosis, is mainly poems written during Arlen’s treatment. This period of time lasted a bit longer than 3 years — and then we had about 4 months before Arlen relapsed.
The second chapter, Relapse, is poems written about Arlen’s second round of chemo. The news of his relapse was so devastating I feared I would never write a poem again. Some original drafts I found I had no memory of writing. The chapter, in a sense, conveys the haze of a day in the hospital, returning home late, and getting ready for another day of the same. There is very little heroism left— now it is just a grind.
Again, our hopes for Arlen are dashed. About half of the poems in Transplant were written when we were in isolation, and noticeably, there is no more interaction with other people. The others were written in the months following Arlen’s death and have to do with grieving and learning to live anew.
Prayers were written throughout the entire period of time to give me the strength to stand by my child.
I hope in the midst of these songs of pain and heroism, dark days and darker choices—some of the strength and laughter and love of life that Arlen possessed comes through. And, if you wish, you can always donate to the Hospital for Sick Children in Arlen’s name.