This is written as an imagined dialogue, a call and response poem of sorts, of my recent essay “Medical Maze” with Susan Ito’s Fall 2015 essay “Rounds.” The words from “Medical Maze” lead, while the words from “Rounds” respond. In our essays, Ito and I embody the physicality, the sensuality, and the emotionality, of the powerfully complex place that is the modern hospital. In addition, we both address this through our roles as health care provider, patient, and women who are mothers.
The business of hospital is life, illness, and death.
In my haze, I’m passing through the walls (…), visiting the rooms I knew so well.
It is a shadowland, a liminal space where tides ebb and flow.
As I drift through the windowless hours of dawn, I remember all the moments I’ve lived here.
I often wonder what it would be like to stand on the rubber fault line during an earthquake.
Below, a river of blood and glass shards.
I embrace the stalactites.
I wish I had healing hands.
In a body that betrayed me.
I feel the pounding of my heart echoing up and down my fingers.
I thought a diagnosis could bring me back into my body.
I am toxemic, poisoned by pregnancy.
A large purple bruise bloomed on my chest.
Look at my heart.
Josephine Ensign is a writer and a nurse. She teaches health policy and health humanities at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is an alumna of Hedgebrook, the Jack Straw Writers Program, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Her essays have appeared in The Sun, The Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, Silk Road, The Intima, The Examined Life Journal, Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine, and in the nonfiction anthology: I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse edited by Lee Gutkind. ‘Greyhound Therapy’ is based on a chapter from her forthcoming book, Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling Through the Safety Net (She Writes Press, August 2016). (See our review of it here.)
© 2016 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine