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the Examined


A Literary Journal of the Carver College of Medicine


Bruce P. Brown, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Fiction Editor Jason T. Lewis, MFA, Managing Editor Carol E.H. Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, Non-fiction Editor Hilary Mosher, MD, MFA, Poetry Editor Amy Margolis, MFA, Editorial Consultant Diane DeBok, MA, MFA, Reader Roberta Gates, MFA, Reader Ting Gou, Reader Rachel Ellis Hammer, MD, Reader Loreen Herwaldt, MD, Reader Zachery Hickman, MFA, Reader Catherine Kasper, MA, PhD, Reader Brian Olshansky, MD, Reader Ann Rushton, BA, Reader Yolanda Rodriguez Villalvazo, MD, MPH, Reader Lindsay Vella, MFA, Reader Jennifer Stern, MD, Reader Matthew Steele, Designer, Cover Artist Margaret LeMay, Copy Editor David Etler, Administrative Assistant The Examined Life Journal is published by The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa. Copyright © 2017 Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Writing and Humanities Program; 1193 MERF, Iowa City, IA 52242-2600

Vol. 5, No. 2 | SPRING 2017 university of iowa carver college of medicine iowa city, iowa THEEXAMINEDLIFEJOURNAL.COM

Foreword SPRING 2017

Thanks to all our contributors, subscribers, readers and supporters. As usual we are amazed at the depth and variety of your submissions. Some words about a few: A wise daughter shows a young, cynical medical team that an iPad is better than antibiotics for treating her father’s drug-resistant pneumonia. An elderly man who at one time was said to have great potential shares the sad irony of contemplating a surge of transcranial electrical potential as a last-ditch treatment for depression. A 19th Century Alabama farmer learns what his fledgling phrenology business is really selling. An American doctor visiting a Mongolian NICU describes the frustrations of treating deathly sick newborns in an NICU plagued with interruptions of power, patched together equipment and low expectations. The soothing meditations of Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs. Ramsey inspire a frustrated patient for a third try of in vitro fertilization. The reality check of a poem calms the ills of a long night on call with a trip through time and the wide expanse of the cosmos. In a nod to something for everybody, a receptionist in a veterinary clinic speculates on what appears to be a testy relationship between a woman and her dead husband’s beloved pet chicken (A nonfiction piece). Wonderful. Thanks again to you all. Bruce Brown Editor-in-Chief


the Examined Life Journal VOL. 5; ISSUE 2




Jacqueline Kolosov, Blue Planet, Bright Planet ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Diane G. Martin, Intensive Care ( P O E T RY ) Daniel Waters, HypnoPaedia ( F I C T I O N ) S. Frederic Liss, Musical Stairs ( F I C T I O N ) Judith Montgomery, After Accident ( P O E T RY ) Ryan McAdams, Hearts in our Hands ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Bradeigh Godfrey, Rehab in the time of Zombies ( F I C T I O N ) Susannah Sheffer, Hospital Room ( P O E T RY ) Jenna Le, Waking From Anesthesia ( P O E T RY ) Stephen Newton, Just Neighbors ( F I C T I O N ) Margaret Gilbert, Kindling ( P O E T RY ) Judith Gille, What I Now Know ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Joyce Newcomb, Give-and-Take ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Catherine Stearns, The Real Ghost Elizabeth ( P O E T RY ) Lisa Lewis, Surrogate ( F I C T I O N ) Emily Silverman, Wilderness ( P O E T RY ) Emily Silverman, Space ( P O E T RY ) Spencer Merrick, Waiting Downstream ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Jenny Clover, Small Comforts ( N O N F I C T I O N )

13 15 25 35 37 47 57 59 61 67 69 73 81 83 97 99 101 105



109 115 119 121 125 133 139 141 143 147 149 161

173 181 183

Ned Randle, Potential ( F I C T I O N ) Maureen Hirthler, Reflection (N O N F I C T I O N ) Joanna White, Unexpected ( P O E T RY ) Boyd Shook, Therapeutic Goals ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Anne Jacobson, The Path of the Storm ( F I C T I O N ) Lorenzo Sewanan, I Close My Eyes, Only For a Moment ( F I C T I O N ) Holly Karapetkova, Labor ( P O E T RY ) Mary Koziol, His Hands: A Reflection from the Anatomy Lab (NONFICTION) Vicki L. McMillan, Mask Making ( N O N F I C T I O N ) Audrey Shafer, The Little Monsters ( P O E T RY ) Elaine Ford, The Organs of Calculation ( F I C T I O N ) Mark Morlock, The Flowers of the Field ( F I C T I O N ) Contributors Editorial Board Editorial Readers



Blue Planet, Bright Planet JACQUELINE KOLOSOV

For how could one express in words those emotions of the body? —Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse*

Late January 2012, a week after my daughter’s fifth birthday: the second embryo transfer has been scheduled for ten a.m. Shortly after my arrival at Dr. M’s office, I lie on the floor of a small room containing a leatherette couch and an ultrasound machine, my legs overhead in plow pose. The Chinese goddess Guan Yin sits on the floor beside me, her serene head bowed in prayer. “She is the goddess of mothers and children,” my friend Lian explained after driving me to the airport the day before. “She will watch over you.” The door opens, and Dr. M stumbles into the room. “Oh, there you are,” he says, frowning at my odd position. “We’re not ready yet, but the embryos look good. We’re going to transfer two.” I stand, and he hands me a photograph; this one shows two embryos floating in a pool of blue. “I’ve spoken to everyone here, and we’re agreed two is the right number. Three,” he smiles a little cryptically, “would not be rational.” “Right.” I am reminded of the recent conversation when he explained that the rational—the scientific—thing to do would be to transfer two— “The chances of pregnancy are slightly less than with three, but the risk of multiples is dramatically higher.” Once he leaves, I look again at the photograph, the names ‘Cam’ and ‘James’ coming to me of their own accord. Two nights ago, unable to sleep, I began rereading To the Lighthouse, the novel Virginia Woolf wrote in memory of her mother. With its awareness of the quick passage of time, its view of time as “an adversary,” this novel, more than any other, has shaped my own vision of motherhood. Oh, but she never wanted James to grow a day older! or Cam either. These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight, never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters. Nothing made up for the loss….They were happier now than they would ever be again…. 1


They came bustling along the passage. Then the door sprang open and in they came, fresh as roses, staring, wide awake, as if this coming into the dining room after breakfast, which they did every day of their lives, was a positive event to them, and so on, with one thing after another, all day long, until she went up to say good-night to them, and found them netted in their cots like birds among cherries and raspberries, still making up stories…. It’s after eleven before Dr. M returns with the embryologist, a woman in her fifties with shoulder-length gray-blonde hair and a tan I associate with a habit of being out of doors. I imagine her as a gardener, a runner, someone given to long walks. This feels like a good sign. “The embryos are beautiful,” she tells me, “like tiny spheres.” I glance at the image again, struck once more by their crystalline quality. The embryos continue to spark the connection with tiny planets, and I think of the ceiling of my daughter’s room covered with a miniature reproduction of the solar system. In three days, I can tuck Sophie in to sleep and stare up at the planets and glowing stars, her head resting against my own. After I swallow the requisite Valium, I lie back on the couch, Guan Yin snug against my palm. The embryologist guides the ultrasound wand inside, looks deep within my uterus. “Do you have children?” I hear myself ask. “A son and a daughter.” Cam and James. Sophie and—, I find myself thinking. “What’s your son’s name?” I ask her. “Wolfgang,” she says. “We call him ‘Wolfy.’” My parents are Eastern European so the name is familiar enough, though I can’t imagine that name going over well with the Trays, Travises, and Tuckers of west Texas. “Are you German?” “My husband is Czech.” “Dr. C’s husband is head of the practice,” Dr. M says, and then it hits me. Her husband is one of the pioneers of in vitro fertilization using a donor’s eggs. Another good sign. A small window in the room opens, and a thirty-ish woman in blue scrubs peers out. I am reminded of the little man, the Gatekeeper, in Oz. “This is where the embryos are,” the embryologist explains. “After Dr. M does the test run, she’ll place them into the catheter.” The test run involves guiding the catheter into the uterus, then 2


releasing a stream of liquid. The placement of the embryos is essential for proper implantation, why Dr. M needs to be able to see the dimensions of my uterus clearly. “How are you doing?” Dr. M asks after I watch the white stream of light on the ultrasound screen that is the test run. “I’m fine,” I say, my eyes still focused on that disintegrating field of light. And I am. Two nights ago I barely slept, but last night after eight hours of travel to L.A. and a solitary swim in the hotel’s night-lit pool, the water a tranquil aquamarine, I slept deeply. Minutes later, the woman in the windowed room adjacent to our own reappears, her hands moon pale in the surreal light as she places the catheter with the embryos into Dr. M’s hands. He holds the glass vial delicately, with a kind of reverence. “Okay,” he says, “let’s be very quiet now.” My fingertips caress Guan Yin as I follow the progress of the catheter on the ultrasound screen, recognize that stream of white light accompanying the embryo’s release. “Good luck,” the woman at the window says, before pulling the little door closed. The Valium has taken effect by now, and I fall asleep, the contours of the darkened room and its few objects swimming in and out of focus each time I open my eyes. Two hours pass before I summon myself back to consciousness, the realization of what has so recently happened, bringing tingly warmth to my belly, what I can only call faith. II. The possibility of a sibling for my daughter, someone she could shepherd and tease and belong to, has committed to me to this regimen; as has the chance to re-experience those miracle first weeks, months, years. Yet I cannot deny the fact that last time it all went to hell—we’ll have to wait for you to bleed—and it could do so again. So, in addition to the hope for a child that buoys me, I try to take comfort in the fact that this time I know what to expect. Because I can’t move around for the next twenty-four hours, there is a meal waiting for me in my hotel room refrigerator; and I have brought my laptop, school work, and reading to L.A. That said, I spend Friday and Saturday absorbed by To the Lighthouse, the experience becoming a kind of meditation, a prayer, for if I don’t buoy myself now, it’s possible I could jeopardize the possibility of new life. I have to have faith, believe. I think back to the weekend I last read the 3


novel—nearly six years ago—during those early days when Sophie’s life was just taking root within me. The city sounds float up to my open windows—honking cars, distant voices, the occasional growl of an engine—and I take notes on particular passages, amazed at the way Woolf, who never had children of her own, got motherhood so right. She could see the words echoing as she spoke them rhythmically in Cam’s mind, and Cam was repeating after her how it was like a mountain, a bird’s nest, a garden, and there were little antelopes, and her eyes were opening and shutting, and Mrs. Ramsay went on speaking…more rhythmically and more nonsensically, how she must shut her eyes and go to sleep and dream of mountains and valleys and stars falling and parrots and antelopes and gardens, and everything lovely…. A mother must transform the terrors of her child’s world into something more manageable, ideally something enchanted—a mountain, a bird’s nest, a garden…. Give a child that gift—teach her the power of the imagination—and in time she will be able to transform her own fears. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. Sophie is my bright planet, I tell myself, and I picture her before I go to sleep; beside me, Guan Yin and the photograph of the two spherical embryos framed against a sea of blue. III. The flight out of LAX is delayed, but by midnight Sunday, I’m home. Bill is standing in the doorway when I arrive, and I wrap my arms around his neck, press my cheek against his chest, intuitively listening for his heart. I have done this thousands of times, and the comfort of it—the sense of being home, safe—has not diminished. He kisses my brow, neither one of us talking about the procedure, not yet, not now. “I’ve missed you.” “Me, too,” I say, reminded of the longing I felt when I saw the trio of French bulldogs on the street yesterday—how he and Sophie would have loved their wrinkled promenade. I go in to peek at Sophie, who lies on her back, arms outstretched, just as she slept as a baby. “I love you so much,” I whisper in her ear. Overhead are the glow-in-the-dark planets, the haphazardly arranged constellation of so many opalescent stars. She stirs a little, murmurs; and I stand, tiptoe from the room. 4


IV. “So, do you feel any different yet?” Lian asks on the eve of my first blood test. “I think so,” I reply, reluctant to describe the fatigue so intense I would climb into bed at eight if it weren’t for the ritual of bedtime stories with Sophie, one that usually lasts until nine thirty—“Just one more story, Mama,” being her inevitable refrain. … My relationships with the extensive staff in Dr. M’s L. A. office are virtually non-existent, my communications being primarily with Dr. M via cell phone after office hours; but the nurses in Dr. Phillips’ Lubbock office are all excited to see me when I arrive on Friday morning for my first blood test. “We’re rooting for you,” Sara, the office manager, says. “I had so much trouble conceiving my own daughter, I feel I’m meant to be here,” says Jenna, the receptionist. “I hope this happens for you.” “So this is the big day. How exciting!” Dr. Phillips says, bustling past, her unflappable smile limned in pink. If a group of women could will a pregnancy into being, this group would be it. “Call me on my cell phone when you have the lab result?” I say to Kathleen, the nurse who draws my blood. “I’m sorry,” she says. “This time the results will have to come from Dr. M.” I resist the impulse to keep my cell phone on during three hours of departmental meetings, but in the end it’s after five before a nurse named Terri, who I’ve never met, telephones. “Okay,” I say, walking outside and sitting down at the edge of a garden bed where the skeletons of last summer’s sunflowers linger, their gray stalks made beautiful by the pair of cardinals that often perch there. “I’m ready.” “Well, it isn’t clear,” she says. “It says ‘some detected.’ This is a very early test, though we’d like to have a better reading.” I squeeze my hands into fists. “Another chemical pregnancy?” “Probably—I’m sorry. You still need to keep taking the medicine until Sunday, though. There have been cases where this situation turns itself around.” I linger for a moment, as if some further wisdom might be forthcoming. What does it mean then? What can it all mean? “When Dr. M comes in, I’ll talk to him,” she says. “Maybe he’ll have some more information.” 5


I remain in the yard and stare up at the gray stalks of the sunflowers Sophie and I planted in July. How thrilled she was when those seeds took root, shooting up in a matter of weeks into four to seven foot plants with brilliant yellow faces. We will plant sunflowers earlier this year, I tell myself. And in just another two months, we can plant tomatoes, beans, squash. “Well?” Bill says, when I return inside. “It doesn’t look good,” I say. “How could this happen again?” Bill, equally exhausted from the week, blinks in the bright light. He looks tired, old, and he draws me towards him. “I truly believed it was going to be different this time, too,” he whispers into my hair. I remind myself of what I told the nurses in Dr. Phillips’s office. “Whatever happens,” I said, having detailed the plans for Sophie’s birthday party, “I know I’m blessed.” “I’ll say prayers,” my mother tells me later that night. Dr. M has said that he would telephone—‘talk today’ was the gist of his six o’clock email. It’s nine p.m. by the time I telephone him, but I get his voice mail. “We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars,” Bill says. “Don’t you find it outrageous that he doesn’t even have the decency to call?” I look at Bill, try to retain hold of the calm I promised I would not surrender, a calm that is dissolving now, an egg dropped into a pot of boiling water. “I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.” “You can’t be serious,” Bill says bitterly, and soon I am spiraling back to that first transfer which took place at 7:02 a.m. That morning, just a few hours after I arrived in L.A., I thought we were going to transfer two embryos. Instead, Dr. M had selected one and convinced me to go along with this plan because, I am now convinced, he needed to get to his other office. A change in plans, at 7:02 a.m., would have wrecked havoc with the procedure—What would you do with twins? You have your career, Sophie. By implanting one embryo while it was still “fresh,” he—or we—cut my chances of becoming pregnant in half right from the start. “It will be so easy to come back,” he told me that morning, “so easy—if it doesn’t happen this first time.” Truth is, there was and is nothing easy about IVF. I listen to Bill slam the cupboard doors in the kitchen. And yet, what good will fury do now?



V. “Ready to go and get your piñata?” I ask Sophie after Saturday’s lunch. Despite the looming blood test, I’m determined to make her fifth birthday party every bit the celebration we intended when she and I sat down and wrote out the invitations, Sophie printing her name at the top of each purse-shaped pink card. “Yes!” She jumps down from her seat at the kitchen table. Five minutes later, she stands at the door with her sneakers on the wrong feet and a backpack full of stuffed animals. They were happier now than they would ever be again…. “We need these sheriff ’s badges, Mama,” she says, reaching into one of the three dozen bins set at precisely her eye level, “and the bugles, and the bubbles—I want purple and green, and look at these little animals, and the sparkly balls, such sparkly balls!” By the time we leave the party store, a dozen balloons in one hand, a cupcake-shaped piñata in the other, and a not-too-outrageous bag of goodies (or so I tell myself ), I’ve managed to push the grim numbers of the first blood test into my mind’s far reaches, not that I’ve forgotten it. It pulses beneath Sophie, now singing—“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands…” But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings….Night, however, succeeds to night… Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. VI. Just before seven the next morning, I drive over to the university hospital for that second blood test. “Congratulations,” says the pretty lab technician with the perfect manicure, once I hand her the lab order. “Sorry?” I say, already rolling up my sleeve. “Your pregnancy.” She begins wrapping the rubber tubing around my arm. “It’s a very tenuous pregnancy,” I say, immediately thinking—‘Why are you telling her this?’ “But this is the second test? To check how far along you are?” “Right,” I say, focusing on the needle as it withdraws the rich, dark blood. … About twenty minutes before the first guests arrive, Dr. M telephones. “Do you have the result?” I ask. 7


“Negative.” Another voice intrudes, garbling his words. “Listen,” I say, “I can barely understand you.” “I’m sorry. I’m in the car. I’m driving—it’s my GSD. I’ll turn it down.” Something hot and red erupts inside me. Dr. M is always multi-tasking, sometimes calling me during his breathless walking workout around some L.A. mall. “Look, my daughter’s birthday party is at two o’clock— that’s like ‘right away.’ Can we talk later?” “I have houseguests all weekend. This is the only time I have.” Once again, the GSD breaks in. “Okay, then tell me this. Why did this happen again? I’m pregnant, then I’m not?” “I have to call it a mystery,” he says, echoing one of Sophie’s favorite phrases, one she picked up from Richard Scarry. This is not the answer I want. “I do have some ideas, however. I think—I’m ninety percent sure— it’s the embryos. The fact that you carried a child to term is a good sign of a healthy uterus, and then we did the sonogram and all the other tests. Both times you had a beautiful uterine lining. Both times there was implantation. I’m going to review all of your charts. Really,” he adds, “I’m as upset about this as you are.” ‘Really,’ I want to scream, ‘that is highly, highly unlikely.’ “Remember,” Dr. M says, “with IVF there is an eighty percent success rate.” Why didn’t I ever consider that that twenty percent un-success rate is pretty damn significant? “I’m still optimistic,” he says, the GSD creeping in again. “We have the day two embryos. We have not yet explored this route. Of course, there’s the possibility that your husband’s sperm—.” Don’t even go there, I want to say. The reason we went with donor eggs was because of the risk of miscarriage with over-forty eggs: my own. “Bill had his sperm tested,” I say, pulling at a ragged cuticle. “Remember: you reviewed and approved it.” “Yes, yes, I know. There is also a risk with day five embryos. We transfer them at day five to prevent splitting—multiple births—but the longer the embryo exists outside the uterus the greater the stress—” I stare at the pink frosting of Sophie’s homemade birthday cake, at the gaily crooked lineup of candles. He continues to talk about embryos, 8


sperm, changing the dosage of the hormones, but I am taking in none of it. Dr. M’s voice has become a sound that swirls somewhere beyond me, while a thin vein, viscous and hot, pulses at my temple. I hang up, meet Bill’s gaze; but there is no time to talk about any of this now. Through the living room window, I see Lizzy hurrying up the front walk carrying a pink party bag. She wears black leggings and an ‘I Love Shopping’ sweater, and her carrot-y hair bobs along the tips of her shoulders. If there was ever a preschool material girl, Lizzy, who has her own iPod and half a dozen light-up ‘Twinkle Toes’ shoes is it, and I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to convince Sophie that she doesn’t need every Thing Lizzy possesses. Hannah, Lizzy’s twenty-eight-year-old mother, follows at a slower pace. This may be the first time I’ve seen her out of scrubs. Hannah does prenatal ultrasounds and is now in the third trimester of her pregnancy. At Sophie’s last birthday party, Hannah was maybe eight weeks pregnant; she miscarried shortly afterwards. “We’re early,” she says sheepishly, as Lizzy and Sophie careen, screaming, towards her room. Hannah follows me into the sunroom, where the table is decked out for the party and balloons bob along the ceiling. “You feeling okay?” I say, sitting down opposite her, for Hannah is very quiet, and her expression reminds me of someone who is perpetually startled. “Would you like something to drink? Tea? Water?” “No, no,” she says, “I’m fine.” She notices Daisy’s off-balance walk, the way she holds her head at an awkward angle, and pretty soon I’m telling her that the neighbor’s new dog clamped down on her head while I was away, a bite that required stitches. The next thing I know, I’m confiding the news of the blood tests—Get a hold of yourself! I tell myself. “I see women in their forties,” she says calmly. “They get pregnant. It’s possible.” At the last birthday party, my forty-two-year-old friend Sabina also announced her pregnancy. Hannah knows the baby girl was born with pneumonia and Down syndrome. “Yes, they talk about percentages, statistics,” Hannah says, “but my friend was twenty-six when she had her baby—with Down’s. Really, you just never know.” I smile, though tears pierce my eyes. “Look, it took me two years to get pregnant after Lizzy,” she says in that same calm voice. “I can’t ovulate on my own. I have to take Clomid. I can’t imagine taking all those hormones for IVF.” 9


“A real cocktail,” I say, pinching my eyes shut, amazed by how wrong I was about Hannah, thinking that getting pregnant was easy for her because of her age. … “Mama!” Sophie runs into the sun room. “Ezra’s here. He has a new dinosaur.” I step towards my neighbor’s son, and at first I don’t register what’s happened to his face, focus only on the chocolate dark of his eyes. Until he looks up at me, holds out a turquoise dinosaur with a row of silver scales. “My new T-rex.” The lower part of his face is swollen, and his lips are caked in fresh scabs. That dog—I stifle my horror, bend down and press my lips to his hair, breathe in his little boy scent. “Sweetheart,” I whisper, reminded of the night—four days ago—his mother told me the dog had growled at him. Had I told her then to get rid of him? Had I said anything at all? “Mama didn’t know what happened,” Ezra tells me now. I look over at his father. “I’m sorry.” He nods, his lips a tight line. “The dog’s gone.” … Within the hour, seven children stand in the back yard, rapt, and Bill lowers the cupcake-shaped piñata. Seconds later, each child has seized hold of a colored ribbon, and toys and candy tumble out. They scavenge the grass, like so many geese descending upon a handful of bread. “I have a bracelet!” “I want a bracelet, too!” “Hey, that’s my whistle!” Two-year-old Gemma returns holding her mother’s hand, seconds too late to participate in the plunder. Gemma, too, came into being with Dr. M’s help just before he left for L.A. And before Gemma and her older sister, he helped the family with another conception, a girl who no one speaks about, a girl who died in the eighth month of pregnancy. Each child receives a small bottle of bubbles, and soon they are holding the wands to their lips, the iridescent globes floating up and away. They, too, are tiny planets. Fragile, perfect, belonging only to now. VII. Dr. M telephones again on Monday night. He has not reviewed my charts— “Unnecessary,” he says, his voice quiet, so that I have to strain to hear. “I’m sure it’s not you.” 10


“How can you be so sure?” He provides another elaborate, somewhat confounding or at least confounded answer, and soon we have decided to wait two months before undertaking another transfer. “To give the body time to recoup its energy,” he says, “yours and mine.” He prescribes a sleeping pill that I do not fill, though I do not sleep through the night for the next two weeks. Days, I meet my classes and sit in conference hours. I talk about poetry and essays, the job market and qualifying exams. I have a perpetual headache, but I am also relieved, for the space of these hours, to be granted a reprieve from my thoughts. But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave… VIII. On the first Monday in February, it is three weeks since that second blood test, three weeks since Sophie’s birthday party. “Will you do it again?” my friend Emma asks when we meet with our daughters at the neighborhood’s fifties ice cream parlor. “Not for at least two months,” I say, watching Sophie and Dinah dance to the juke box songs on their mint chocolate chip and French vanilla high. Fear and uncertainty permeate my words; and yet, sitting there, I am reminded, too, of Sabina’s daughter who has Down syndrome and is now seven months old. Today I watched her sleep in the sunlight, her eyelids fluttering, each lash a tiny wing. Rosy-cheeked, she smiled as she dreamed, and seemed a world away from the infant born with pneumonia, her body so light at her birth she reminded me of a small bird. … And there were little antelopes, and her eyes were opening and shutting, and Mrs. Ramsay went on speaking…more rhythmically and more nonsensically, how she must shut her eyes and go to sleep and dream of mountains and valleys and stars falling and parrots and antelopes and gardens, and everything lovely…. “I worry about what the future will be like,” Sabina told me as the two of us stood beside her sleeping daughter. “She’s going to do well,” I said, believing this, in the way I believe the daffodils that Sophie and I planted will return come spring. Hope, Emily Dickinson said, is a Thing with Feathers. “I don’t want to get too hopeful,” I tell Emma, though I know I will have to summon that vision again, that promise, if I’m to go through it all again. 11


Emma nods, quiet, her own thoughts—despite the three years I’ve known her—impenetrable. A Buddy Holly song I love comes on, and our daughters twirl towards us, Dinah’s pink tutu fanning out around her hips; Sophie ‘shaking her booty’ (her latest favorite expression) as she stands in the embroidered jeans I wore when I was five. “You know,” Emma says, leaning closer and nodding in the direction of our daughters, “we got really lucky, with these two.” *Text from Virginia Woolf ’s To the Lighthouse used by permission.



Intensive Care DIANE G. MARTIN

The old charmer, skin tinged green, hair yellowed by nicotine wise-cracked with the nurses as they wheeled him in. His once fine, fierce, black, probing eyes laced with fear and drugs, desperate for concealed diagnosis and prognosis, pierced and probed their gnosis under comic, courtly cover. “What a character,” they remarked, pretending not to see the stark terror—as they turned him over— in his good-natured chatter. Before he had to beg for water. Before the routine biopsy. Before his dropped wedding ring clattered under the bed unseen. Gorham, Maine February, 1987


Sampled The Examined Life Journal Issue 5.2  
Sampled The Examined Life Journal Issue 5.2