fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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In early morning appointments,
the doctor’s coat reeks of cigarettes
as he moves closer,
says “Scoot down,”
inserts the probe.

They want me to want my eggs
in case the treatment takes them—
to hold fast to the dream of a child
with my dimples and dark eyes.
To hold it closer than what I know:
my own mind.


At home, while roommates watch a movie,
I hold the needle a breath away from my skin,
try to summon the dream,
but push through still unconvinced.


On the table in the dark room
with the surgical spotlight,
my belly ripe but stomach empty,
the doctor interrogates my uterus
with wand and needle.

Too-sharp instruments
pluck seeds
from artificially swollen tissue.

I cry out
when the pain pierces through the anesthesia.
The nurse squeezes my hand,
says “I’m sorry, we can’t give you any more.”
I stay awake.

They wheel my gurney to a small room,
strap an oxygen mask to my face,
watch me for seven hours
and finally admit
when I do not recover.

I do not recover.


A week after my release, I call for answers.
“Something to do with you being
so sick,” the doctor says.
“But did you hear the good news?
We retrieved twelve.”


A decade later, I still know
what I knew at twenty-two.
I do not want this harvest
picked out of fear, at too high a price.

Will I cultivate forgiveness?

Eke it out
a little more each year
like pure salt that can be raked from the sludge
only after years of wind and sun.

Call for Entries

Pulse Writing Contest

"On Being Different"

Allison C. Harrison is an abolitionist social worker, writer, advocate and writing-workshop facilitator through Breath & Spark. She is the author of a collection of poems about her experience with stem-cell transplantation as a young adult, as well as other poems about family in the US South, relationships, coming of age, grief and healing.

About the Poem

“A week after I turned in my undergraduate poetry thesis, a doctor told me that I needed a hematopoietic stem-cell transplant. It was three days before graduation. When I heard the devastating recommendation, one of my first—very much in shock—responses was to tilt my head and ask, ‘Did you say poetic, like poetry?’

“Poems about my stem-cell transplant help me to process that voyage of interruption, trauma and isolation, and the reaching for something life-giving. This poem was one of the hardest to write, as it describes a time when my intuition was dismissed due to my age and gender, and when preserving my childbearing capacity (thereby creating a success story for a new institutional program) took priority over my well-being.”


3 thoughts on “Harvest”

  1. Wow Allison, so beautiful, so pointed, and the conclusion striking and moving. Thank you for learning to write your pain. Can you teach me? xoxo Sally

  2. Ronna Edelstein

    As someone who cannot write poetry, I admire those who can. Your poem contains rich language, strong imagery, and heartfelt emotions. Thank you for sharing-and be well.

  3. Pamela Adelstein

    Thank you for sharing your experience. And I am so sorry that this was forced upon you. The medical profession still has a long way to go in learning how to listen to the voices of people who do not fit a patriarchal mold.

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