Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

An avalanche of white tissues

Gail Ghai
Sarasota, Florida, United States

Avalanche painting by Robert Qualters for collaboration Gail Ghai
Avalanche by Robert Qualters. Mixed media painting and drawing, 2022. Courtesy of artist.

He gives me a golden pearl to vanquish the sputtering sputum cough. A red tablet to quell the scarlet flushing, and an ivory capsule to squash the bronchial terrorists that have invaded the walls of my chest.

He crushes ice for lemonade to drown the cactus spines in my throat. Then presses the damp washcloth on my forehead that soothes and shivers me simultaneously. He clears away the avalanche of white tissues that have fallen through the long, prolonged February night.

Before he leaves for work, he throws on the mohair blanket, so I’ll won’t die alone in my coldness.

I’ll call you, he whispers kindly through his coffee and cologne.

Aaah… I try to answer, but something’s standing on my breastbone. Half dizzy, half-delirious in the pool of gray sunrise, I push off the woolly warmness. The blanket sneezes!

The dog has jumped onto the bed. She stares. Sniffs. She knows when sickness enters the house like an unwelcomed stranger. And I know she will stay here until the bronchioles whistle clean. Stay until the rise and fall of my chest is rhythmic as rain. Stay until the turbulent sweat, shakes, dehydration and dullness have dissolved. And I will be golden again.

GAIL GHAI is a poet, teacher, workshop leader, and author of three chapbooks of poetry as well as an art/writing poster entitled, “Painted Words”. She has served as Poet-in-Residence for the Pittsburgh Cancer Caring Center, North Allegheny School District and the International Poetry Forum. In addition, she has presented poetry workshops for the Peace River Writers, Poetry Life and the Florida Writers’ Association. Awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination and a Henry C. Frick scholarship for creative teaching. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies in Canada, U.S., and Britain including Descant, The Yearbook of American Poetry, The Delhi-London Quarterly, Poet Lore, JAMA, and Burning Wood Journal. She is moderator of the Ringling Poets in Sarasota, Florida.

Winter 2022



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