Spencer Brownstein – Let Go

Button poet and college student Spencer Brownstein explains his daily struggle fighting myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles, as well as hardships he faced in college through a button poem he composed.


“Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disease that leads to fluctuating muscle weakness and fatigue. It can affect the muscles that help you eat, speak, breathe or, like me, see. The myasthenia started showing signs maybe three days before I left for college and I spent my first semester with a droopy left eyelid and double vision, but I didn’t let that stop me and pretty soon, I met you. I don’t remember how we became friends, but I knew we’d be tied at the hip since we both put on mesh tank tops at a birthday party, and for the first time, it didn’t matter I could only see double. We could have passed for one and the same.

I remember explaining the disease to you and I remember how you hugged me and promised that it will all be okay, that some day I’d be able to see just one of you, and for the first time, college felt like home. When I got back to school after winter break, my eye was fixed, but I still see two of you. Superimposed on top of each other, and I can’t tell which is you and which is an afterimage.

One of you is coming to my room at three in the morning, to wipe away my break-up tears, and the other stumbles in at six yelling about all the cigarettes and liquor you lost that night, and even though you say you didn’t drink anything, the bourbon stains on your teeth and shirt say otherwise.

One of you is clasping a torn notebook in both hands asking me to help you edit poems, and the other is clawing through a twist-tied plastic bag for the white chalky pills you bought from a stranger on the street.

One of you is confessing how abused you were in that three-year relationship you just escaped, and the other is avoiding my eyes with yours glazed and unable to focus on anything, slurring through the words, “I’m okay. I promise.”

When you got back from four months in rehab, I was so blinded from the shine in seeing your smile again that I didn‘t want to notice the shadows still lurking behind you, telling myself over and over it was just a trick of the light or a reflection on an obtuse surface, or anything other than yourself. But like birthday wishes don‘t come true, you were still both of you, Xanax resting in one palm and my hand in the other, and I‘m realizing I may have to let you go. Because this place you made my home is tearing you down the middle and one of you is happy and healthy and somewhere far, far away from here. While the other… the other died two months ago. You died two months ago. Overdosed, alone in your room, and now, I can’t see any of you.”

– Spencer Brownstein