amongst books

amongst books

Friday, April 08, 2016

IMPROMPTU #8 - Intensive Care Unit

Today’s prompt from Harold Abramowitz is to write something you don’t remember, write it six times. He is interested in trauma.
I have a lot of material for this assignment. I had a major health crisis in 2009. I had pneumonia and full body sepsis. My colon was removed. I had an ileostomy bag for fourteen months and then reattachment surgery. I’ve only just begun to write directly about it in the last year or so. I’m 100% healthy now.

Intensive Care Unit


once upon a time
there is a woman
in an icu bed that is

much too big for her
she wears a hospital
gown that is also

too large & stiff & green
too heavy on her body
she wanders

in delusion & fever while
doctors tells her husband
that she will die

his voice comes from
somewhere she can’t
see him she isn’t sure

what she’s seeing,
sometimes it is dark
there are cobwebs ghosts that

howl, sometimes there is nothing
but a blank oblivion which scares
her most of all the voice tells her

everything will make sense
i will explain it to you but
nothing makes sense the woman

is afraid & a looming
shadow offers her a hand
she refuses to take it



she is a good patient
she does what she’s told
we wash her hair
we close the curtain
when we change her
she is always cold
she is so tiny
please provide a bottle
of her favourite shampoo
her toothpaste so that
she will be surrounded
by familiar items you
should talk to her


you bit down
on the intubation tube when
they suctioned you had
a feeding tube you had
a central line &
a bunch of other lines
the marks all over
your body aren’t freckles
they are from the needles
they inserted to attach the
lines your lung collapsed
this was a minor thing
compared to everything else
the doctors told me you would
die on icu or on the operating table
I signed the consent form


evidence: the dressings
on my stomach on
my chest
the strange plastic
baggy hanging
from my stomach
evidence: pain
it hurts to move
i can’t turn i lay flat
on my back & it
must be a few days
am able to grab hold
of the rail to turn on
my side & then fall
asleep finally a deep sleep

evidence: i sleep
with the light on
for three months after

evidence: i never lock
doors in small bathrooms
can’t breathe in tiny spaces

evidence: the ghosts remain

evidence: i cry out in my sleep


the orderly is not
out to get you
the entire staff
doesn’t want to
move you to third
floor storage where
they keep the statues
of angels they don’t deny
you water you are allowed
to eat but you have to have
a feeding tube yes, they
tie you down so that you won’t
pull out the tubes and wires


she’s in our squat an old
warehouse in toronto we’ve
taken over this woman in
a hospital bed no idea how
she’s here but magic happens
all the  time maybe i’m
imagining her i take another hit
from the pipe cough breathe
in deep the smoke in the room
is fragrant covers the blue
walls where the clay bowls
and plates hang & gleam red
she insists she has no money
but she’s eaten the pear that’s
stealing she talks to my lover
in english but we speak no english
only french one day the ambulance
comes to take her away in pieces
her legs in one cage her torso in


This exercise prompted a revelation about how to write about my health crisis. The idea of writing what I barely or don’t remember at all multiple times led me to writing it from different points of view: my own, the nurses’, my husband’s, one of the crack addicts from my delusions. There are a lot of possibilities here, which I plan to explore.

Thank you very much, Harold Abramowitz, for this prompt. I needed it. 

Play along!

For those of you who are just joining us, 
The Found Poetry Review is celebrating National Poetry Month by offering daily experimental writing prompts from writers. I will be responding to them at poetic whim.

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