I see myself, always
through a stark looking glass
the fun house view of my own face
reflected in the eyes of my patients--
tangled in the bleeding strands
that line the gray sclera of the meth addict
drowning in the pooling ink that splits
the swelling pupil of the hemorrhagic stroke
swimming in the antibiotic slather
that blurs the newborn's first gaze--
my clouded countenance,
slipping even through parched flesh
along the steely glide of the angiocath
glistening in the fluid bag
of intravenous medication
from the sliding metal siderail--
twelve hours streaming from my skin
like an open wound in the scrub sink
face to face
in the soap-splattered mirror--
do I look away.
About the poet:
Stacy Nigliazzo is an ER nurse and a lifelong poet. Her work has been featured in Pulse--voices from the heart of medicine, Creative Nursing, American Journal of Nursing, Blood and Thunder and The International Journal of Healthcare & Humanities. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is a 2006 recipient of the Elsevier Award for Nursing Excellence.
About the word:
Chirality refers to the quality of some objects that cannot be superimposed upon their mirror images. According toWikipedia, "Human hands are perhaps the most universally recognized example of chirality: The left hand is a non-superposable mirror image of the right hand; no matter how the two hands are oriented, it is impossible for all the major features of both hands to coincide. This difference in symmetry becomes obvious if...a left-handed glove is placed on a right hand."
About the poem:
In an emergency setting, the interventions provided by nurses are often harsh by nature (inserting large-bore IV lines, etc.). Other times, there is nothing that can be done except to provide comfort as a patient deteriorates. This poem is a personal exploration of the difficulty and responsibility of this role, as well as an attempt to catch a glimpse of my patients' perceptions of me as a nurse and my own perceptions of myself.
Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro