This powerful collection by nurse-poet Jeanne Bryner addresses several themes.  She tells very difficult child abuse stories in the voices of children and health care professionals.  Nursing stories emerge from experiences on the surgical floor, in the ICU, labor and delivery, ER, etc.  In one poem nurses take a political stand for healthcare reform; in another the nurse helps a patient die; in another she listens to a patient describe how he endured the colonoscopy prep in his bathroom, then took his shotgun and blasted the plastic jug "to Kingdom Come.  That, he said, felt like justice." A whole section of the collection is devoted to writing workshops the nurse-poet led with cancer survivors, assisted living residents, former patients.


Jeanne Bryner's poems are deeply moving and often disturbing.  In "Bread and Wine: Poem for my Brothers" she recounts how her step mother kept her little brothers locked in an 8 x 10 foot room. "They grew pale as candles, heads shaved, little stick arms/fell from their shirts like Dachau's children."  Though the neighbors knew from the voices and the laundry that children were being kept in the house, they didn't call Children's Services.  The narrator-sister didn't know what to do, but now, many years later she can tell the story.  "I saw my baby brothers live the life of spiders,/ lie wingless as flies upon their beds./ And I will call their names Bread and Wine."  Much of Bryner's writing speaks of things she could not talk about before she became a writer.  As she says in "Why the Nurse Retired Early," she needed time to go over her life, to come to understand the truths she was too busy to see in the thick of things, to go "to the altar of my desk asking for words to paint what's sacred."  She tells the truth in the most exact and tough images.  They have a spiritual rightness to them, even as they make you wince. 


Bottom Dog Press

Place Published

Huron, Ohio



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