poetry

this week

this week I
had a mammogram
which is always painful 
and degrading and cold
something suspicious sent
me back for a repeat
more compression and waiting
possible biopsy
turned out to be a cyst
I drank a mimosa and ate avocado toast in the sunshine

this week I 
worked at the triage desk
and received patient after patient
with small and dire emergencies

this week I 
saved the life of a young man
with a GSW to the chest
pouring unit after unit of blood into his body
while the trauma surgeon opened his chest
and shocked his heart and
gave him intracardiac epi

this week I 
lost the life of someone's 
mother and grandmother
all the efforts to repair her head wound
keep her heart beating 
and warm her body enough to support her blood pressure
failed to save her
she had told her family 
she wanted to die and jumped
down a ravine into the cold creek

this week I called my brother 
in the hospital with sepsis from a
necrotic wound from his wheelchair
he sounded discouraged 
to not be able to tend to his patients
the children of migrant workers
instead he is the patient
going to the OR and ordered 
to not work for 6 weeks

this week my phone died
disconnecting me from everything
I learned how dependent I am on the 
small block of glass and metal
that is also a powerful computer
as well as a lifeline
I didn't know I was missing calls
and texts, the silence was 
unnervingly blissful

this week I 
had an out of body experience
my hands and feet carried out
their usual activities but
my mind could not connect to the present moment
was I dreaming
did that happen
did I have that conversation
the words went through my ears 
but never reached my heart

this week I 
had an argument with my love
hearing  his voice raised in frustration
my heart slamming against my cold sternum
shocked muddled confused
what just happened
why are you yelling
I am not like you
yet I apologize
but don't know what for

this week I 
held the phone for my patient
to speak to his family 
in breathless one word phrases
just before he was intubated 
the virus claimed another set of lungs
and I pushed his bed to the ICU

this week 
I launched a new nurse into practice
after weeks of training her
to think critically under pressure
advocate for her patients 
recognize subtle but dangerous trends 
in her patients conditions
speak up in a noisy trauma room 
because she noticed  the problem
she is ready to be independent

this week I 
laughed and joked with my nurse colleagues
inappropriate and crude
to let off pressure after a grueling shift
the young man whose heart stopped twice
after we shocked him back to life
will probably not recover
and we will never know the truth
about what happened to him
I think of his mother getting the call 
and my laughter turns to tears

this week I 
slept for days
exhaustion never leaving my body
or my soul
no matter how long I slept
my eyes burning from the light
my legs so over tired they feel like cedar logs
my breath slowing
as dreamlessness takes over
then bring coffee




life suspended

I look at the body I was given

lying there on the alley pavement

unmoving and cold

paramedics surrounding me

pushing hard on my chest

but I don’t feel the gravel bite into my back

they shove what looks like an inflatable plastic shovel

in my throat and scoop me up

am I dead?

should I go with my body to the hospital?

for a moment my heart flutters and I feel

a rush of pain in my head

my chest burning

and my feet feel so cold, can’t I have a blanket?

next thing ten faces are

shouting things at me prying open my eyes

and I hear “pupils six and fixed”

someone is pushing air into my lungs with a large purple balloon

and I realize I am seeing my body again from the outside

shredded cloths all around me and my body exposed

it looks like me but it doesn’t feel like me at all

in fact I don’t feel any pain

that must mean I’m dead then I feel the jolt of

electricity sear through me and my heart jumps to life.

it is a lot

there are people who will tell you
that you create your life
the good things and the horrid things
are there because
you allow them 
or they fill some deep need

do I respond to life or create it?
do affirmations make things real?
can a vision collage bring my
dream house on the beach?
my ideal relationship?

pressure is all around to be 
whole and healthy
it is a lot
to do all the self care
time for yoga, flossing, affirmations and gratitude
meditation, hot baths and massages
it is a lot
when I just want to get in my car 
and drive to Maine and 
eat a giant lobster roll
was it down with a cold beer
and keep my cell phone off
so nobody can find me
and stare at the waves while
I breathe in the salty seaweedy air
it is a lot
to be a compassionate listener
to be the stable rational one
to always be the one with the answers
when really there are no answers

it is a lot

I always knew I loved

I always knew I loved leaves

viewed from below

as I lay in the dirt daydreaming

their shapes like hands

open to catch the rain

but I didn’t know I loved

the space inbetween

that my grandmother urged me to study

if I scrunch my eyes

the leaves fade and the sky takes shape

coming forward like a cartoon

flat and smooth with edges

I can take a bite out of

tasting as buttery and soft as the snickerdoodle

that I stole from the cooling rack

I know I love a celebration

when friends come inside with hugs

and smiles and bottles of wine

stealing private conversation

while everyone is dancing and toasting

but how about the ordinary days

not marked by events or memories

those days that stretch and meander

like a lazy hike to the top of the hill

out of breath and panting

breathing in the aroma

of cow paddies and dead grass

grateful for legs and lungs

and my mountain.

the thing is…

the thing is….

we couldn’t predict what it would feel like
to be inside all the time
not touching except with our eyes
inside homes
inside heads
isolated in our individual lives
zoom connection that felt like the stuff of the new millennium
is how how we desperately connect
our world is funneled through a
thirteen inch Brady bunch screen
masks cover our expressions in real life
the world outside spells danger
in viruses, violence and ubiquitous smoke
when will it lift you ask?
the thing is…
…it won’t

Thank you Seema Reza for your work with us on Community Building Art Works. The writing group for healthcare workers has been so nurturing and inspiring, giving me hope through these dark days

pandemic continues

And though we know that the pandemic cannot last forever
the end is beyond my sight
around the corner or just ahead
or beyond th e horizon where the moon rises
swollen and blurred behind the fog

and though we know there will be an end
the self proclaimed experts do not know what that will look like
the day we can leave our cocoons
with our faces turned up to the sun and breath in the unencumbered breeze

the day we forget what it felt like to hesitate before a hug
not because we fear intrusion

it has been a while since I first learned to recognize my coworkers
by their eyes behind goggles and shields
or the way they move their bodies
or the sound of their muffled lipless speech

it has been a while since the waiting room teemed with bodies jostling for the chair near the outlet
knowing they would wait hours for help with what they cannot tend to on their own
on the days when the radio rings with yet another unresponsive likely overdose
so many that we have run out of curiosity
so many that the act of giving breaths and placing tubes and giving narcan
no longer leads to surprise or annoyance that the supply drawer is never stocked
and the floor is a field of wrappers and blood and vomit
on these days we just look at each other in understanding and sadness
there are no words

Thank you Seema Reza for your work with us on Community Building Art Works. The writing group for healthcare workers has been so nurturing and inspiring, giving me hope through these dark days

Rage Writing

Rage Writing with Seema Yasmin
— Read on seemareza.com/rage-writing-with-seema-yasmin/

There are people who will tell you that
you must care for the drunk driver who
was unaware that her decision ended the life of the mom whose
teenage son’s world is about to change when he
wakes up from the sedative given to fix his fractured wrist

he must heal his heart and body without her
the mom who would fill the ziploc with ice and carefully wrap it in a kitchen towel
who would wipe his tears and wrap her arms around his big man body as he cries
in the one bed in the flat they share with his school papers strewn on the floor

There are people who will tell you that
you must forgive
forgive those who slash open your heart with the betrayal
of the only promise that really mattered
they tell you forgiveness is for you not the one
who undermined your reason for living

I want to be hated by those people who want to silence the rage
that falls from my pen
the depth of anger that erupts through my scalp
at the man who harmed the child we promised to protect
that man who walked through his life with
an earnest face and a vile secret 

there are people who will tell you that
that life with three squares and no freedom is enough
enough to atone
is there atonement for the hate?

Thank you Seema Reza  for your work with us on Community Building Art Works. and to Seema Yasmin for the special online writing workshop The writing group for healthcare workers has been so nurturing and inspiring, giving me hope through these dark days