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   Leopold’s Maneuvers

   Intensive Care: More Poetry
   and Prose by Nurses

   I Knew a Woman: Four
   Women Patients and Their
   Female Caregiver

   Willy Nilly Poems for Children

   Details of Flesh

   Between the Heartbeats:
   Poetry and Prose by Nurses

   The Body Flute



God and the Blueberries
   September, 2001

I selected the blueberries from the blue bowl left uncovered overnight in the refrigerator.

I felt the blueberries in the palm of my hand. They were small, like tiny eggs, but not like eggs. Some were soft and caved in, not quite rotten—like old men and women.

For a moment before releasing them, I wondered if blueberries knew about transformation. In the refrigerator, they had been safe.

I scattered the blueberries over my cereal. They fell into the milk, turning it blue like breast milk, and the blueberries became small blue breasts.

Outside, the sky was blue, and sugar turned red in maple leaves that soon would be brown as the stem hole of a blueberry.

I rolled the sweet blueberries from palm to fingertips and, one at a time, one at a time, they disappeared.


How I’m Able to Love

I’m stunned by death’s absence,
by the flesh that remains, changed and yet hardly so.
I try to pretend the body’s a pod or insect shell,
but attending the body after death

I see the body with all its attributions
for the first time, totally honest—
a time to satisfy that final curiosity,
the long gaze that reveals a life compressed, unalterable.

Beyond the window, rain falls. Streets below
shine like an untied black ribbon.
When my mother died, I was the one
part nurse, part daughter. I caught her last heartbeat

with my fingertips, knowing that the lungs
fail a few beats after, then breath empties them.
From long experience, I stood at the moment
just before and stroked her hair

as life moved through her as it always does—
pulling itself up through the ankles
through the bruised aorta
taking the heartbeat along, gathering the last

lungful of air and leaving nothing, all this
up through the jaw and, at the moment life breaks free,
out the open eyes. The hands respond,
as if the body wasn’t robbed, but had been clinging and let go.

I don’t believe in death.
Even when the body mottles, even
in its closed casket, I see the body I have touched,
staring at it as I work. Only my fingers

retain the memory
of my memory. This compression is good:
it makes room for all the dead I know and don’t know—
the familiar dead and the dead yet to be born.

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