Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Morning note

Jeanne Bryner
Warren, Ohio, United States

Poet’s statement: “Morning note” was a response to finding my husband’s note. Couples who have come through this type of grief know its depth. There are many gravesites on our journey. Names we dare not speak burn themselves inside our hearts.


Morning note

In a few moments I’ll let you read the note my husband wrote this morning
while I was sleeping, dreaming maybe of what I’d fix for supper, something like
meatloaf under ketchup and twice-baked potatoes (which he loves), or maybe I
was just floating under the pink calico quilt I made four years ago, the one that
almost never got finished because I wanted to quilt it myself (as if that was
important), but finally agreed to let my best friend take it to some old guy (who used to drink with her father, a guy as old as my own dead father) who machine quilts in his basement for women like me who have too many deadlines to meet (I mean who doesn’t?), because Lord knows I try to do it all: schlep the kids to games, dentist appointments, piano, PTA, work eight or twelve hours, and clean (after a fashion), iron (out of necessity), but I should get back to the note and how he wrote it about four in the morning, when it was still dark, how he read something that was a draft, a draft of a poem, my poem, a poem assigned in workshop, the way professors assign writing stuff, the way the woman from New York said “Write something that puts you at risk with the world, something that puts you in jeopardy, write a poem for a body part,” she said, like I could think of one and write it by the next morning when I had to go home, shower, get up, pack lunches, coax breakfast and vitamins, help with Algebra, work two ten-hour shifts in ER and have time to think of a risk, a song for anything, let alone my body parts when all I know is: time served equals more aches (feet, back, and hips) bones shift like angry continental plates, still, I didn’t want to show up with no homework (I never have), so somewhere between dishes and four loads of laundry, I stole a few minutes to scribble lines to my uterus and reflect about being barren, I managed to talk about the thing we never talk about as a couple anymore, the thing that once consumed us, the inability to do the simplest thing—reproduce—was out of our realm, no matter how many tests or doctors or pills or surgery, more surgery, waiting, hoping, the thermometer on the bedside stand like a magic wand, I thought I’d put it all away, the dreams of baby blankets and cribs, the christening party, the way my baby would smell like my sisters’ babies after their baths, how talcum would fill my nostrils and milk would fill my breasts, how it would feel to have something inside me kicking, another heartbeat starting up, a belly growing round and sweet as a melon, labor to bring my husband a fine son, how I would do facing great pain, I wondered about all these things for so many years, but that was before we adopted and this is now and what I really want to say is that while I was asleep in a room not twenty feet from the kitchen, while I was warm and curled in the spot that smelled of my husband’s hair, he dressed and tied his shoes, bent over, no doubt, when the title caught his eye, there on the oak table by my typewriter, “Song for My Uterus” (crazy title, I bet he thought), and then, because he was bent down lacing those work boots, I guess his eyes drifted down to the first lines, once he’d read the first stanza, tied his boot, and our boxer was up, whining to go out, he probably opened the door to a gust of February wind, our garage light veiled in snow, by the time he laced his second boot, I bet the dog scratched to get in, and he had to lift his eyes from the poem before he reached the line about Kelly Erin (which was the name we never said anymore, the name we’d picked for our daughter), but I know he went back to that poem and read on, probably read it through again and maybe sighed, wanting to do something (I know him) so he ripped a piece of paper wrote a note that said Your poetry touches my heart. D. B., that’s it, a five word note that made me cry because the poem was a draft and I was tired and I didn’t mean to make him sad, but maybe I did, maybe he wanted
that baby, our baby, as much as I did.




JEANNE BRYNER, RN, BA, CEN 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, Scotland. She has a new play, Foxglove Canyon, and her books in print are Breathless, Blind Horse: Poems, Eclipse: Stories, No Matter How Many Windows, and Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated and Remembered. She lives with her husband and daughter near a dairy farm in Newton Falls, Ohio.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2011 – Volume 3, Issue 1
Winter 2011  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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