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Missing Piece

Ray Bingham

I entered the hospital by a back door. It was evening. As I walked down the quiet corridors, their cinder-block walls, green paint, tiled floors and soft fluorescent lighting granted me a superficial sense of familiarity: I’d walked these halls countless times over the last five years.

Now, however, I also felt a bit apprehensive. I was

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The Silent Treatment

Frances Smalkowski

Last year, while enjoying a two-week tour of the cultural capitals of China, I was amazed by how at home I felt. Searching my memory for the reasons behind this unexpected state of mind, I suddenly remembered Mr. Loy.

We met more than forty years ago. I was in my third year as a nursing student, doing a semester-long rotation in a large psychiatric hospital. Each student was assigned a patient for the

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Stacy Nigliazzo

“Wake up, Eli,” I whisper, tapping his collarbone. “I need to re-check your blood pressure.” 

“Aw, come on, doll,” he snickers. “A man can’t snore if he’s dead. Ain’t that good enough?” 

“No, sir,” I reply. “I need numbers.” 

It’s two a.m. I’m seven hours into a sixteen-hour shift in the emergency department of a busy city hospital, running five rooms in the “sick but stable” section with Dr. Watts. (We’ve worked together

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Witnessing Consent for an Autopsy

Patty Bertheaud Summerhays

“They just cut the abdomen like an operation, look in and sew him up. No one will know.”

I know the inside story–the body parts,
the heart, brain, liver, lungs,
kidney, spleen, bowel, and bladder
sliced on a cutting board
like loaves of bread.
The coroner donning a butcher’s apron
splattered with blood from the last
scrape of blade over bone,
slipping off the scalp like a mask.
The eyes stopping him 

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Hospital Corners

Eileen Valinoti

“And now, as we finish up, we’ll need to put our blankets away. I want you to fold them like this,” announced my yoga teacher–a bit sternly, I thought. With swift, deft hands, she began to demonstrate. Something in the tone of her voice and the sharp jut of her chin brought me back to Miss Coyle…

Miss Mary Coyle RN was the nursing arts instructor in my first year of training, more

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Through a Hollow Tube

Jan Jahner

She carries forward the bundle like a giant fish
vacant eyes above wood-smoked plaid bathrobe
hook me as we unwrap his blue stillness
words swim upstream,
I am swallowed by a wave, standing by admissions, heading out to sea.

I left mine on the rug by her sister, curled in cartoons.
Room Four has a gurney and a chair
Stained, nail-bitten fingers slide through silky dark hair
She starts again, how the cabin was cold,

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Morphine, Pearl Harbor

Ann Neuser Lederer

They do not scream. They keep their hands steady as they shoot the shots.
They run from one to the next, on their rounds without walls.
The troops of well trained girls patrol the troops, their wards.

And they make them to inhale their brew
of Friar’s Balsam, tincture of tree resin:
Pines and cooling mountain breezes in the steaming, smoke filled chaos.
Pliable amber beads, shrines for prehistoric bees,
crumbs for

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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

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