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Questions of Priority, Written in Vernix and Blood: Two Poems in ‘Art of Nursing’

October 1, 2010

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Handleaf by The Welsh Poppy / Rachel Davies, via Flickr

Jenna Kay Rindo’s poem “An Ode to My Certified Nurse Midwife” (Art of Nursing, August) brims with the narrator’s gratitude for the clinician who has seen her through a “gloomy complicated gestation” with great skill and compassion. (Art of Nursing poems are always free online—just click through to the PDF files.)

This is no sentimental paean, though. This ode is a gritty read, full of vernix and “unrehearsed pain,” euphoria and shame. The child, we learn, was “conceived completely out of wedlock, / in a rush of holy illicit love.” The narrator at first only wants to know how long she can hide the pregnancy. It’s the nurse midwife whose “jubilant congratulations” never seem to waver, whose “size seven hands covered in  / sterile latex” draw the infant’s wide shoulders into the world, and give the young mother courage. It’s an ode, perhaps, to something we strive for but rarely attain: a nonjudgmental attitude.

“It is lucky to live outside the target groups,” begins the narrator of Erika Dreifus’s poem “The Autumn of H1N1” (Art of Nursing, October). She is referring to those considered most at risk for the flu and thus at the top of the list for immunization.

But when she finds herself hemorrhaging and frightened, waiting to be seen by a gynecologist who minimizes her distress, she reveals far more complicated feelings about “the prioritized.” It’s an unusually frank poem about what it’s like to find out that, for the moment anyway, one’s blood “counts less.”

We invite you to have a look at these poems, sit with them, and if you’re so inclined, leave a comment and tell us what they evoke for you.

And if you’re in the Portland, Oregon, area this month, stop by the Anka Gallery for a look at nurse blogger and artist Julianna Paradisi‘s new show, From Cradle to Grave: The Color White. Paradisi’s Love You to Death appeared on  our cover (October 2009) and new work is forthcoming in Art of Nursing.

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One comment

  1. [...] October 2, 2010 by JParadisiRN Leave a Comment Thank you to American Journal of Nursing art editor, Sylvia Foley for mentioning my October show, From Cradle to Grave: The Color White in yesterday’s post on the AJN blog Off the Charts. [...]

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