Two pieces in the Spring 2015 issue of the Intima illustrate how fiction and poetry enable a writer to range widely in search of an emotional truth. In Stephanie Reiff’s affecting poem, “Emergency Department,” a woman’s mind fills with images of a miscarriage in the emergency room while she cleans her house. In Kimberly LaForce’s short story, “Emerging into the Light,” the nurse recording and assisting with an autopsy imagines the life and death of the dead man. These works show different ways caregivers cope with death.
Reiff’s narrator is cleaning the house, an act that attempts to bring order to disorder, just as she must bring some meaning or order to the chance event of a miscarriage she observed in the Emergency Department. Images of the miscarriage invade her housecleaning ritual as the language of the hospital, verbs such as “examined,” “inspected,” and “opened,” invades her description of house cleaning. The two threads merge near the end of the poem in the arresting line, “Cleared the thought dishes,” as she tries to clear the vivid image of the miscarriage from her mind.
LaForce uses language just as effectively in “Emerging into the Light.” The dead man’s blood “staining every inch of glass with its opaque grip” parallels the way sorrow over the man’s death saturates the story. The nurse-narrator imagines in colorful detail the man setting out in the morning to go fishing, filled with anticipation about a profitable day’s catch. She envisions his life in an effort to create order from disorder and make meaning out of his death. Finally she pictures him rocking in his boat, peaceful in death; in this way LaForce too has “cleared the thought dishes.”
The survivors in both pieces are mentioned only briefly. LaForce inserts a short paragraph that tells us “a daughter mourned her father and a wife silently contemplated suicide.” Reiff offers a single line: “Consult: PPROM 42 yo Female.” Both writers, while capturing the grieving caregiver, remind us of the loved ones’ primacy in grief: the mother in case of the miscarriage, the fisherman’s family when he finally “emerges into the light.”
PRISCILLA MAINARDI is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University where she received a MFA in creative writing in 2012 while continuing to practice as a registered nurse. Often awed by her patients’ ability to cope with dire health issues, she is interested in exploring the ways in which narrative can connect caregivers and patients in a stronger bond to foster healing, and in the contributions of nurses to the field of narrative medicine. Her short story, "Pretending Not to Know," appeared in the Spring 2014 Intima. Mainardi joined the editorial board of the Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine in Fall 2015.
© 2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine