Semi-Private Room

Jan Jahner

Sometimes nectar appears
when stories intersect:

I walk into the room 
rearrange the bed-table
and push the pole with its bulging bladder sideways 
for a closer look. 

Her thinness triples the size of the bed
but her father, with his anxious chatter
feels strangely like my own
and her resolve, that tense control
has a familiar edge.

It feels like all the calories she’s ever counted 
and all the sweet things resisted for the last eleven years 
have aligned as a taut shield
protecting that juicy place that hasn’t ripened,
urged too early to carry her family through chaos: 
after all, her mother was dying of cancer
after all, mine couldn’t manage mental illness
after all, aren’t fathers helpless in these things?

The electrolyte imbalance that nearly took her life 
and the nurturance imbalance that emptied
her adolescent pockets of all the in-free tickets,
lie tangled with the feeding tube she never wanted 
while she talks and I listen, my beeper ignored.

Our connection becomes a spoon
with its delicate curve
Starting the good-byes, I hand her my card
she reads through the menu
departing, I feel the full moon
rising in my chest.

About the poet:

Navigating emergency, hospice and palliative-care nursing has provided Jan Jahner with rich and rewarding relationships for the last twenty-seven years. Currently, she is an admissions and education nurse for Ambercare Hospice of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2007 she received the National Hospice Foundation’s Project on Death in America Nursing Leadership Award. Along with expressive writing, Jan enjoys pretty much anything connected with the great outdoors, her children and grandchildren and spiritual inquiry; as a writer, she enjoys being surprised by a phrase or a feeling when crossing a threshold, sitting at a patient’s bedside or as a family member accompanies her to the car.

About the poem: 

“Most of my poems emerge from the specific residue of a clinical encounter that wants more time and attention. I enjoy sorting out the interconnected elements of the parallel process involved in giving and receiving care. The young woman in this poem hoped to become a nurse.”

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

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