Rusted nearly through at the base
of their pale green throat,
the amaryllis buds are trying to bloom,
like a person with a tracheotomy
trying to say a poem.
I snip off the buds, leaking dark red
from their diseased wound, trimming
them to clean pale stubs to put in water.
Day to day, the largest furled bud
is loosening into white
a paper gown, an intravenous tube and silence greater than my symptoms
sterile sheets speak my fear & insecurity saying will you be there with me
come back after the anesthesia has broken up with me and hold me
could you love a cure that hasn’t found itself yet? will your grace go down
with me weeping and swinging because time is spilling its sand and I
Andrea Eisenberg ~
Seeing patients in my ob/gyn office this morning, I try to stave off the mild nervousness rumbling inside of me. My good friend Monica is having a C-section this afternoon, and I’m performing it.
We met ten years ago, when I walked my three-year-old daughter into Monica’s preschool classroom for the first time. Monica sat on the floor, a child in her lap and others playing around her. Like them,
Judy Schaefer ~
How can I write a poem, nurse, in this pelted room? Nurse? Nurse!
Memory loss, southern pine–nurse, this is not a poem-writing-room
The floors ooze resin at your footsteps
Spanish moss, from every wall
Spongy trod of medical students
Surgery went well, anesthesia lifted
Cologne of betadine, a boarish root for a vein
at the same time each morning. I welcome
the lady of
The thirteen-year-old boy sits in a battered ENT exam chair. Henry, my Kenyan colleague, hands me a blurry CT scan. “His neck mass has grown for two years,” Henry says. “We think it is a glomus vagale tumor. Do you agree?”
I hold the scan up to a window. The vascular mass fills the side of the boy’s neck, displacing his carotid artery. “That’s probably right,” I respond. “At home, we would get more studies. We
based on Robert Schumann’s Third String Quartet, Movement 1
We meet in the holding room; a paper dress covers your tattoos
At any moment, your craze of fragile vessels
could spill, fill the sea cave cradling your mind
Your wife holds your hand until it is time for us to go
I guide you as you blow through a straw
swimming across your long day of surgery
Tears in the operating room are different from tears cried by civilians, by veals.
There are rules.
A single tear from one eye is unobjectionable.
Two tears, either one from each eye
or two from one eye
are permitted if they are unaccompanied by sniffles.
Three tears risks discovery and humiliation.
There are rules.
The mechanics of crying in the OR are difficult.
When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that triggers an inflammatory response of the joints, causing swelling, stiffness and severe pain. The disease sped through my body like wildfire.
By the time I was fifteen, my hip joints were utterly ruined. Just getting out of bed was a slow, carefully choreographed sequence of movements, with frequent pauses to allow the pain to
Let me not be blinded by the glare of the spotlight
or distracted by the tangle of plastic tubes,
the stink of anesthesia waiting in its multi-chambered
monolith of sleep. Let me stand beside the patient
and look into his eyes. Let me say, we will take care of you.
Let me understand what it is to be overcome by fear.
Let me secure my mask and
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