Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Photo journalist — The garden in winter — The violets

Jeanne Bryner
Cortland, Ohio, United States


Photo journalist

Like patio umbrellas our green tomatoes shade
these babies, six bunnies dressed in furry snowsuits.
God tells a joke in July and quickly, you must run
for your camera. It’s just this way living out of town,
wanting a mess of fried green tomatoes for supper
(your grown daughter’s favorite). Remember when
her small feet found those bees? And now, you stumble
on a new family moved into your garden overnight,
their mother’s gone to market after hours of labor,
her sweeping out years of someone else’s dirt,
assigning beds inside the bunker,
and it’s hard work getting six kids
down for a nap. She’s earned her cup of coffee,
her sweet moment of rest after unloading all these boxes.
But see how the curtains fold back, and she’s propped
her kitchen door wide? Kneeling, peeping through leaves,
pressing your face against the nursery window,
you feel like a hospital cleaning lady.
Soon, day turn nurses will return from lunch,
and isn’t it a little like sin to photograph newborns?
Faces down, butts stuck high in the air, they cuddle together
struggle to stay warm. Don’t be such a wuss,
you tell yourself, this is not to sellnot even one copy
no profit here, but today, maybe God wants you to understand
juxtaposition. He asks you to show a moving story,
not the one about a bush burning, something easier,
a parable about hunger and blindness,
how any life we find can make us full.



Bunny looking at viewer through grass

Photo by Ron Michael Zettlemoyer on Flickr.







Snow covered tree
Photo by Andrea R on Flickr.



The garden in winter

Row upon row
snow waves

cover our garden.
In stiff trousers

the maple’s shadow
walks his old dog.

Faint smell
of pipe tobacco

drifts behind them.
From his left pocket,

the man lifts a boy
like a timepiece, engraved

something rare and precious,
a leaf’s hand pressed in stone.

Shoveling nine steps,
I watch the puppet show.

With great effort
a twisted branch gets thrown,

the lab
makes a clumsy plunge.

In cold white sand
the boy runs, then whistles

to his friend.
Come back, come back

you’re out too far;
(my toy heart lunges, gulps)

and I’m too winded to swim.

The violets

Across our living room,
they greet each other
wave their arms,
good women, these neighbors
who seldom visit, never carry tales.
Sunday afternoon,
buttoned sleeves rolled up
their green blouses pressed, long gray hair
twisted back, pinned in buns,
these Pentecostal sisters
come together,
bring bouquets
their small fists full of purple flowers
their heads bowed down.
This morning,
one of their young sisters passed.
Today, they will not be baptized in light
nor will they speak in tongues.


Purple, blue, and white violets
Photography by Kissed by Fire on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.






JEANNE BRYNER, RN, BA, was born in Appalachia and grew up in Newton Falls, Ohio. A registered nurse, she is a graduate of Trumbull Memorial’s School of Nursing and Kent State University’s Honors College. She has received writing fellowships from Bucknell University, the Ohio Arts Council (’97, 07), and Vermont Studio Center. Her poetry has been adapted for the stage and performed in Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Kentucky, and Edinburgh in Scotland. She has produced a play, Foxglove Canyon, and her books in print are Breathless, Blind Horse: Poems, Eclipse: Stories, No Matter How Many Windows, Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated and Remembered and SMOKE: Poems, published by Bottom Dog Press. SMOKE: Poems received one of the 2012 American Journal Book of the Year Awards and Foxglove Canyon is being remounted for the North American Network on Aging Studies working retreat at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio. She is currently working on a new manuscript, KILLDEER, from which these poems were selected.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Summer 2013 – Volume 5, Issue 3
Summer 2013   |  Sections  |  Poetry

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