The Shape of a Woman: Two Poems in ‘Art of Nursing’

February 4, 2011

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Abstract ice patterns by net_efekt, via Flickr

“I think about the woman / wilting // on the pillow of the steering wheel,” begins Stacy R. Nigliazzo’s poem “Sketch,” featured in this month’s Art of Nursing department. As the title suggests, the poem sketches out a scene, the immediate aftermath of a car accident. The driver appears dead; the paramedics “offer her up, prostrate / in white splints,” while the physician records the time. The narrator—who might be an ED nurse (perhaps Nigliazzo, an ED nurse herself)—describes what she sees. And as she does, we feel the terrible burden of her witnessing: the victim’s eyes brim “like black bowls that can’t be filled.” When the victim has been taken away, we’re left with almost nothing, only some coins and “buckled lines / in the shape of a woman.” It’s a short, spare piece that conjures up far more complicated matters, like where the dead reside, and how the living might go on.

The narrator of “Connection,” the poem by Camille Norvaisas that’s featured in January’s Art of Nursing, has undergone a double mastectomy. She is shockingly direct in her stated desire. “I want to feel the same / as my nipples, so cold, / in some jar in a sterile lab,” she tells us. She’s trying to comprehend a literal disconnection: once her breasts were part of her; now, “referred to as tissue,” they lie on a stainless steel table somewhere awaiting dispassionate study. The poem hums with sensation, real and imagined. Somehow it manages to be both fierce and stoic in its lament.

Have a look at these poems, sit with them a while; poems tend to reveal more upon rereading. (Art of Nursing poems are always free online—just click through to the PDF files.) And if you’re interested in submitting your own work to Art of Nursing—we consider visual art, short-short fiction (750 words max), and poetry—feel free to send me an email (sylvia.foley@wolterskluwer.com) for more information.

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  1. Thank you for the kinds words…I am honored.


  2. Thanks for sharing this lovely poems!


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