Month: November 2009

Cleft

As Caroline was born

the doctor saw
the split
from lip to nose–
purple rimmed,
going down deep–
Deep enough
to hurt
generations.

And the imperfect doctor,
tired of wounds
tired of divisions,
saw the small
wholeness
Chose that moment
Chose tenderness
saying simply,
She is beautiful.

And the imperfect mother,
tired of pain,
held her child,
touched the tiny,
ragged face
Chose that moment
Chose acceptance
crying softly,
She is beautiful.

About the poet:

Jon Neher is clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle and associate director of the Valley Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program. He is editor-in-chief of the newsletter Evidence-Based Practice and a frequent contributor of essays on medical education to Family Medicine.

About the poem:

This poem was written to capture the layering of emotions that occurred the day I unexpectedly delivered an infant with a cleft palate. I was new to my career, and this was a novel challenge for me. Since I had no professional scripting …

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Maman

Paul Gross

At a recent religious service I attended with Maman, my 87-year-old mother, I watched her fumbling attempts to find hymn number 123, “Spirit of Life,” in the hymnal. I held my book up, opened to the appropriate page, so that we both could sing from it.

She glanced up momentarily, tightened her lips, hunched forward and resumed turning pages, finally arriving at the song when the congregation was singing the second verse, which she needed help finding–what with her poor vision and the swirl of notes and words on the page.

As this ritual repeated itself, hymn after hymn, it occurred to me how much cozier it would be if my mother and I could share from the same hymnal.

It also struck to me how unlike Maman that would be. Her need to do things independently–and the improbability of Maman reciting from someone else’s page–capture in a nutshell the difficulties we’ve experienced with her aging process.

Maman was born in Belgium in 1922. She lived through the Nazi occupation before coming to the U.S. Of her five siblings, only one sister remains.

My father died seven years ago after a lengthy battle …

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Help Me

Jennifer Reckrey

Editor’s Note: Jennifer Reckrey kept a weekly journal of her experiences during her intern year.


Week 13

I had a few free minutes at the end of my clinic session this past Thursday morning, so I took over a walk-in patient from an overbooked colleague.

The patient was a large, muscular Salvadoran man in his early forties who had long-standing hypertension. He said that for the past three months, he’d been feeling tired and didn’t have the energy to take his daily medications. Just a few months back, he’d finished a five-year prison sentence for armed robbery. Now he was living temporarily with his twenty-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, but he told me that he couldn’t seem to get his feet back on the ground. Though he made a little money here and there as a freelance mechanic, he couldn’t get steady work: no one wanted to employ a felon, and the job-placement program couldn’t help him because of his mental illness.

“What mental illness?” I asked.

Looking more at the wall than at me, he described voices that he’d heard ever since he was a boy. Though …

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My Evidence

When I saw dust settling,

the road black and gritty,

and noticed the air
shimmering as it lowered closer to the earth

like a soft blanket suffocating
the damp September

mornings that had morphed seamlessly
into November’s

crowded table
of berries, sweets, and yellow corn,

just before the hospital
phoned to say that Mother had called my name,

familiar syllables
caught in her throat,

I’d already detected her leaving
in my own body

and so while she paused
at the end of her journey,

which was also the beginning,
I rushed to her,

hurrying
as I’d never hurried before.


About the poet:

I work as a nurse practitioner at Sacred Heart University’s health center. I’ve been writing since my childhood, encouraged by my mother who loved poetry, and my father, a writer himself, who would type up the first few sentences of a story and ask me to finish it. I’ve never stopped writing since. My latest book is The Heart’s Truth: Essays on the …

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