Erythra Thalassa: Brain Disrupted

Erythra Thalassa by Annette Libeskind Berkovits

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Published by: Tenth Planet Press
Release Date: November 12, 2020


A searing portrayal of a mother’s anguish over the sudden hemorrhagic stroke of her son—devoted father of two young girls—rendering him a quadriplegic in the prime of his life. An intimate glimpse of a world shattered by stroke, in which each poem not only illuminates, but reimagines life with hope and acceptance.

“Everyone can master grief, but he that has it.”

William Shakespeare


Jeremy Haskell Berkovits, 55, passed away in Manhattan on February 29, 2024 from complications due to stroke. Read his obituary



Read a sample poem

Erythra Thalassa—When I first came across this exotic name for an ancient sea, I did not associate it with the algae that give it color. My eye zoomed to the word erythra and immediately I thought erythrocyte, a red blood cell laden with hemoglobin that gives it the crimson hue. It was then the body of water turned to a sea of blood, a terrifying image. Never did I think it would become the signal image changing our lives forever. If this little volume eases the stress—even a tiny bit—of watching a loved one on the brink, than the sea of tears will not have been entirely in vain.
Annette Libeskind Berkovits


“Here is a poet facing the stroke of her son. Here is a woman holding herself up against the possibility of her son’s death, his recovery, and then life, post-stroke. This is a collection about the body and the blood and the way we have no idea what mystery lives inside both. It is a book about how to cope when the body and the blood betray, surprise, fail, and ultimately, reinvigorate.”
Matthew Lippman, poet; winner of numerous poetry book prizes

“...This is a wonderful book for anyone, whether serving as a family caregiver in overwhelming circumstances, or merely needing to be reminded of the temporal nature of what it means to be alive on this earth. Ms. Berkovits’ honesty is soothing. She struggles with all things medical, and sometimes is consumed with inner guilt.”
Shawn La Torre, Story Circle Book Reviewer (read the full review)

“Anyone who has watched dreams for their child destroyed, or endured tragedy beyond comprehension, will find a friend in this poet - someone whose raw honesty in this exquisite, jewel-like collection says the things they cannot.”
Regina L. Woodard Lt Col, USAF, Ret.

“A beautiful portrayal of one mother’s remarkable journey through hell. Berkovits turned to poetry to process recollections from the past, navigate frustrating medical mazes, and wrestle with questions of faith, hope, and guilt. This stunning collection of poems powerfully demonstrates the healing nature of writing and assures readers—especially parents—they’re not alone as they face their own travails and tragedies.”
G. Elizabeth Kretchmer, Author; Writing Through the Muck: Finding Self and Story for Personal Growth, Healing, and Transcendence

What Readers Say

"Annette Berkovits has yet again outdone herself. She is one of the best contemporary writers published today. I highly recommend anything she has written."
—Rachel L.

"I hope that every parent who is taking care of an adult child is able to find and read this amazing book. With a minimal amount of words - almost like haikus - Annette Libeskind Berkovits takes us on her inner journey of thoughts and emotions. Her words are like simple brushstrokes, employed without wasting a drop of paint. But they create an honest portrait of grief, terror and tenacity that a memoir of 300 pages couldn't capture. I was so grateful to read this book and learn about Ms. Berkovits and her family. They will always remain a source of inspiration to me. Neurologists everywhere should keep this book on resource lists for their patients and their families."
—Amazon customer

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Any stroke is a tragedy. Strokes, sudden bolts of lightning, can strike seemingly well people of all ages. The results can range from mild for the lucky ones, to the devastating, like the massive brain bleed that changed our son’s life forever. And not just his, but all his loved ones.

Courage in the face of such an event is easy to recommend, but mustering it is a heroic feat that takes every shred of psychic, emotional and physical power—every single minute, every single day. One must possess not only optimism that the future will be better, but a faith in science, God, or both. One must consciously decide to be a survivor. In the darkest days, when my son’s life teetered in the balance for weeks, then months, I was a roiling cauldron of emotions; writing helped. Somehow, pouring out my heart made the burden more manageable. I kept writing through my son’s ordeal. Eventually, the collection of poems found its own arc. I hope it tells a story of a mother’s emotional struggle, the son’s courage and his small physical achievements. To a healthy person “graduating” from nothing by mouth to a few tiny ice chips is nothing, but in an epic fight to live, such tokens of progress feel like towering feats.

If this little volume eases the stress—even a tiny bit—of watching a loved one on the brink, than the sea of tears will not have been entirely in vain.

"The Time I Spend With You (aka Jeremy's Song)"

Learn more about the inspiration for the song