Iowa Writes

SARA BAKER
Lumbar Puncture*


I laugh while they do the puncture,
keeping up a steady stream of one-liners:
"Whiskey is my preferred pain killer" and
"don't worry, if it hurts, you'll know--
The whole place will know."
I'm good at entertaining.

Relax, the doctor says.
Chris, the nurse, has her hands on me. They are warm.
I think of my dog at the vet's, her eyes darting, frantic.
I am all animal, knees to chest.
The doctor counts my vertebrae.
I think of spare ribs, I think
of making a joke.

Chris shows me the four vials of spinal fluid.
Clear, like water,
but full of meaning some bio-magician will decipher,
predicting my future:
a gradual loss of muscle control,
wheelchairs, and being fed
like a child, or not—
just some anomaly in the brain,
this shadow, this lesion.

I laugh while they do the puncture,
keeping up a steady stream of one-liners:
"Whiskey is my preferred pain killer" and
"don't worry, if it hurts, you'll know--
The whole place will know."
I'm good at entertaining.

Relax, the doctor says.
Chris, the nurse, has her hands on me. They are warm.
I think of my dog at the vet's, her eyes darting, frantic.
I am all animal, knees to chest.
The doctor counts my vertebrae.
I think of spare ribs, I think
of making a joke.

Chris shows me the four vials of spinal fluid.
Clear, like water,
but full of meaning some bio-magician will decipher,
predicting my future:
a gradual loss of muscle control,
wheelchairs, and being fed
like a child, or not—
just some anomaly in the brain,
this shadow, this lesion.

My husband reads an article, "The End of Physics?"
I glance at it, eyes glazing.
The world is full of mysteries
I do not understand.
I understand his passion,
but I don't care
where the atoms are in the box.
Do you feel the energy? my PT says, and
I do. I feel the colors of my chakras;
sunlight makes sense to me,
dogs wrestling in it.

The part of my brain with the shadow on it
houses memory, language, emotions,
each function a Tarot card waiting to be turned.
Will I learn to understand physics without them?

St. Augustine had a dream. In it a small boy
tried to empty the ocean into his bucket.
The dream, the saint said, was a metaphor
for trying to grasp God with our minds.

The world is full
of mysteries.

The world is full.

4/2010

*2011 Hippocrates Prize commended poem

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


SARA BAKER

Sara Baker's stories and poems can be read in The Chattahoochee Review, The New Quarterly, The Healing Muse, Ars Medica, The Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine, The Journal of Poetry Therapy and elsewhere. Her own journey with chronic illness led her to create the Woven Dialog Workshops (www.saratbaker.com), writing workshops designed to facilitate the healing process. She is a presenter in The Examined Life conference held in Iowa City.

The Examined Life is a three-day conference in April focusing on the links between the science of medicine and the art of writing and sponsored by the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

This page was first displayed
on April 19, 2011

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