Between the Heartbeats
“This volume of poetry and prose is written by nurses about their experiences of caring. It describes their disasters, their triumphs, their joy and sorrow. It is, quite simply, wonderful…Beg, steal, or borrow this book; if that fails, buy it.”—Nursing Times
“Their [the nurses'] words expand the practice of nursing as well as the practice of language. By bearing witness to the intimate details of nursing, from the mundane to the beautiful to the tragic, they reveal the epiphanies of life and death.”—ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners
“A striking, often beautiful collection which brings to speech what occurs between the caring and the cared for—moments at the edges of life when, for most of us, even crucial communication seems beyond the reach of words. Coming now, Between the Heartbeats seems a particularly important book, breaking as it does the silence of women and men who, perhaps more than any others, live the essentials behind the health care debate.”—Honor Moore, author of The White Blackbird
“Powerful, honest and vivid, this collection of stories and poetry gives voice to the compassion and grief felt by nurses from around the world. A compelling and graceful anthology which will touch any reader, regardless of medical background.”—Creative Health Care Resources
“A new class of authors who are experienced professionals as well as skilled and talented writers, these nurses write out of a powerful sense of the immediacy of the body, the concreteness of suffering, and the nuanced individuality of their patients. Honest, vivid, and unsentimental, the works of this collection will not fail to move—at times even astonish—medical and nonmedical readers alike.”—Anne Hunsaker Hawkins, College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University
“The best nurses have always been holistically oriented: they are the inevitable sharers of our mind, body, and soul secrets. Reading Between the Heartbeats, we share theirs. These fine poems, stories, and memoirs are honed, harrowing, and surprisingly life-affirming vignettes of the here and now. Between the Heartbeats is a splendid merger of the healing and written arts.”—Dick Allen, Director of Creative Writing, University of Bridgeport
Nurses who are also creative writers have a powerful empathetic outlet for the joys and griefs of their everyday experiences. In Between the Heartbeats an international, diverse community of nurses write honestly and compassionately about their work. By unsentimentally translating out suffering into prose and poetry, the registered nurses in this brave, graceful anthology perform another enduring act of loving care.
Foreword, Joanne Trautmann Banks
Nighthawks, Carolyn Barbier
The Color of Protocol, Jeanne Beall
Angel from Pratt Street, Jeanne Beall
Why Not Me?, Janet Bernichon
Meditations on Death and Body Bags, Kaija Blalock
The First Rains of April, Geoffrey Bowe
Learning How the Bones Move, Carol Brendsel
Raiment, Carol Brendsel
Dear Alma Mater, Ruth E. Brooks
Hospital Flowers, Celia Brown
Daffodil Days, Celia Brown
Night off the Maternity Ward, Celia Brown
The First Hour, Celia Brown
Blue Lace Socks, Jeanne Bryner
Butterfly, Jeanne Bryner
Red Corvette, Jeanne Bryner
A Story, Richard Callin
Oldies, Richard Callin
Hospital Course, Sarah Collings
The Nurse's Pockets, Cortney Davis
What the Nurse Likes, Cortney Davis
This Happened, Cortney Davis
Night Nurse, Cortney Davis
The Body Flute, Cortney Davis
The Nurse's Task, Cortney Davis
Two Stories: 1944, Eva D. Debb
The Book of God, Theodore Deppe
Admission, Children's Unit, Theodore Deppe
Thallium Scan, Theodore Deppe
Gloria, Theodore Deppe
Gooseberries, Theodore Deppe
The Gift: La Cumbre, Guatemala, Elizabeth Desimone
Mr.Death, R. Eric Doerfler
First Night Duty 1950, Jane Farrell
In Common Darkness, Helen Trubek Glenn
justanurse, Chrisitine Grant
The Gift, Chrisitine Grant
Dehiscence, Amy Haddad
Thoughts on V-Tach, Mitzi Higley
Dead Dog Days, Nina Howes
Ricky T and His Cockatoo, Nina Howes
Miranda's Dream, Nina Howes
I Drive in the Lane, Georgiana Johnson
Cats, Georgiana Johnson
Christmas Time, Georgiana Johnson
About Nursing, Michael Kelly
While His Life Went on Around Him, Angela Kennedy
Tourniquet, Shirley Kobar
Gift, Shirley Kobar
The Lullaby, Jeanne Levasseur
Hospital Parking Garage, Jeanne Levasseur
Danny Boy, Jeanne Levasseur
Secrets, Jeanne Levasseur
What Abel Says, Patricia Maher
God and the Telephone, Veneta Masson
Pouring it Down, Veneta Masson
Snowbound, Veneta Masson
The Arithmetic of Nurses, Veneta Masson
Litany of Dolores, Veneta Masson
Night Walker, Lianne Elizabeth Mercer
Empty Swing, Lianne Elizabeth Mercer
Bea's Last Vacation, Muriel Murch
From Journey in the Middle of the Road, Muriel Murch
White Flame before the Long Black Wall, Madeline Mysko
Wisteria, Leslie Nyman
Instructing a New Mother, Dawn Ramm
The Demonstration, Dawn Ramm
Mr. Craig and His Wife, Dawn Ramm
Where are You Now, Elia Wade?, Joyce Renwick
Back Rub, Debra J. Sandy
Sounds at Night: 1960, Adele Germaine Sarrazin
Who Owns the Libretto?, Judy Schaefer
Medicine from the Wood, Judy Schaefer
Long Hospital Stay, Judy Schaefer
Sunday Morning, Judy Schaefer
Feather and Claw, Judy Schaefer
Rehab Nursing, Judy Schaefer
Black Stockings and Me, Elsie Schmied
Rhythms, Bethany Schroeder
Morning Visitors, Ellen Shay
Another Night, Another Customer, Ellen Shay
Vietnam Canon, Dana Shuster
Curandera, Dana Shuster
NICU, Dana Shuster
Rochester, Minnesota, Kelly Sievers
Between the Heartbeats, Kelly Sievers
Before Heart Surgery, Kelly Sievers
Breath, Kelly Sievers
The Journey, Rosemary Smith
Promises, Sandra Smith
Burnt-out Offerings, Sandra Smith
Bev Brown, Sybil Smith
Heroic Acts, Janet Tripp
From the Diary of a Clinic Nurse, Poland, 1945, Belle Waring
From the Diary of a Prisoner's Nurse, Mississippi, 1972, Belle Waring
Twenty-four-week Preemie, Change of Shift, Belle Waring
Baby Random, Belle Waring
Euthanasia, Belle Waring
Between Rounds, Belle Waring
I Couldn't Touch the Wall, Ellen Diderich Zimmer
About the Contributors
My point is that illness is not a metaphor …
The intern and I begin our rounds.
In room two, the intern watches me;
he doesn't like this patient anyway—
she's messy, a see-through plastic tube
pulls bile from her stomach
to a bottle near her head.
A small balloon inside her throat
on vessels wrecked by years of gin.
The patient's wide awake,
but she can't talk.
I see her eyes open, her skin
pale at the moment these veins
blow, like a tire blows.
Blood backs up her nose.
She tries to sit;
her wrists are tied.
I take her hand and say, OK. OK.
The intern leaves.
Next the patient's gut lets go.
Stool and blood clot between her legs,
hot and soft, not like sex,
more like giving birth. OK, I say.
We let our fingers intertwine.
By 8:15 the woman calms.
Clots thicken in her throat;
she holds her breath.
At nine, blood coins
close her eyes. I breathe deep,
stroke the patient's arm.
who went downstairs to sleep,
will ask me later.
But what happened here
can't be said again
and be the same.
What Abel Says
Abel talks in stories.
He tells me a string of them
about the sea
and a small boat anchored
yet moving with the wind and water.
Abel tells me
he too is anchored
anchored to his house
by the dirt, he says.
I listen, realizing my silence
is the precious thing I bring.
It makes space for hope.
My breathing is shallow
the stench is so deep
My foot stamps
to keep the gray mice away
his pets, he says
since he lost his dog.
He eats cold beans out of the can
happy for my company.
Frayed shirt and long beard
his shoes are molded to his feet.
I took them off for him once
but now we just
stand facing his mantle
and look at the pictures and bills.
His wife's pocketbook
although she's long gone
as if she might return
like an anchor
he can't bear to pull up
nor can I, yet.
Instructing A New Mother
Like a Little Barracuda
the newborn latches on—
nurses until a nipple bleeds.
Move him to the other breast,
speak for the hospital
and for the numerous books
I have read:
how to hold him
how to open his mouth
how to break the suction
with a finger.
Yet I never knew my body
as this mother does—
its natural capacity.
I measured exact amounts
of evaporated milk,
Karo syrup and water.
The efficient nurse who contaminated