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Stephenie McKinnon


He came to us leukemic listened carefully said his prayers took his meds showed us his
pictures: wife two kids dog cat baby's first birthday talked about basketball and God and
anxiety and what it feels like to be hairless and a good patient
He came to us leukemic followed directions read his scriptures took his meds
showed us his pictures: wife three daughters hamsters the kids in matching
Easter dresses talked about running and heroes and how bored his children
would get when they would visit and what it feels like to be helpless and hungry
for food that "doesn't drip"

He walked the halls daily stopped to chat between laps contemplated everything deeply
complained justifiably about the food threw up got transfused slept and slept
He walked daily sometimes shaking always hot with the exertion couldn't speak
between his breaths used a walker and a shoulder cried in private rolled himself
at first so we could wipe him clean got transfused threw up couldn't sleep

His wife came in to help him pack held the door of the car while he got in and he looked
out waved wildly goodbye with kids bouncing in the seats behind him and I stepped
back inside glass and metal slicing cleanly closed I watched them drive away
His wife came in and held him as he died then called his mother and called her
mother they left quickly after everyone was gone the room twice-cleaned and
bright with chemicals sat still sharp linens tight and hospital-cornered on a flat-
slab bed with railing arms open saying "next" and I stepped back into the hall let
the heavy wooden door hang open

At the desk I saw his family left us 
Chocolates


About the poet:

Stephenie McKinnon is a registered nurse in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she lives with her daughters and her not-so-fearsome watchdog, Molly. After working in various nursing jobs, Stephenie found her niche working with cancer and palliative-care patients. "Writing poetry is a passion which has kept me emotionally centered through the most challenging times in my work and life." 

About the poem: 

"This was one of several poems written at a difficult time in my career. I was coming to terms with the reality that, as a medical professional, I could grow to love my patients and their families and then have them disappear suddenly from my life. I was grieving. I started writing poems about my work, telling the truth about the paradoxes, the losses, the fears I often experienced. 'Pictures' is not only about the ways in which these people leave my life; it also speaks to the fact that there's no way I can know who will live and who will not, and that the only thing within my control is how present I can be with them, and with myself, each day."

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanne Shapiro