SUNDAY BLOG READ is your glimpse into the working minds and hearts of Utah’s literary writers. Each month, 15 Bytes offers works-in-progress and / or recently published work by some of the state’s most celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and memoir.
Today we feature a poem by Anne Vinsel, first place winner of last year’s Utah Original Writing Competition in poetry. “Nurse Quilts” was part of the winning collection. Both a wrangler for medical residency programs and a surgical photographer by trade, Vinsel explores the landscape–technical, emotional and otherwise–of the operating room in many of her poems. Judge Ellen Bass wrote of this winning collection that “[t]here is a palpable voice here, a person with something to say. There is something important at stake at the heart of these poems.” Vinsel was recently paired in conversation with Utah Poet Laureate Lance Larsen at 15 Bytes’ READ LOCAL: Finch Lane Reading Series, June 9, 2016.
About the poem appearing today, Vinsel writes: “I helped out a group of oncology nurses with a conference, and learned that they made a quilt for every patient. They were sheepish about not being able to pay me for my help, but they gave me one of their quilts, which was amazing to me, and I still treasure it. Reminds me of a friend in Southern Utah apologizing for serving me homemade bread instead of store-bought. I am in awe of these nurses, who work in such a difficult area, and this poem was the result of how I feel. When some people read it, they assume I have been a cancer patient, but I have not. I have seen quite a lot of cancer treatment, though, and others have told me stories. So thanks to Annette Welch, Carolyn Scheese, Sue Childress, both Victorias, Chris Springman, Sharon Calvert, the ‘onco’ docs, nurses, and techs, Rita Guthrie, Shauna Smith and my grandma, May Kucko.”
So curl up with your favorite cup of joe, and enjoy the work of Anne Vinsel!
Oncology nurses make the best quilts
because they know how itchy chemo can be.
They use flannel, always,
because it is warm and softens with each wash.
As you get worse
weak and chilled and tired,
they get better and better,
soft and warm,
smelling of nothing.
Nurse quilts are small
because bigger is heavier
and your body already has a hard time
with layers of chemo weighing you down.
You could fly in your sleep under a nurse quilt
and have enough energy left over,
when you awaken.
Nurses quilt in muted, natural colors,
no blood reds and no puke-anything.
Clear yellows like broth,
pale as a bird’s egg,
not chalky like high-calorie
high-everything nutritional supplements.
Patterns do not move or wiggle
or look like scary bacteria or scream at dusk.
Oncology nurses quilt star patterns into the blank spaces.
Ursa very major,
on which to hang wistful dreams.
More time, please, less pain
please, I am cold,
my head swims,
my brain is full of cotton,
I feel like a hooked fish on the floor of the boat.
The nausea is bad today,
the Zofran does not help.
The nurse will put your quilt in the warmer for you and
listen while you drowse and mutter.
Nurse quilts are strong, like nurses.
They stand up to much washing.
Ditsy patterns hide barf stains and other body fluids,
overflow from the feeding tube,
the strange neon yuck that squirts up sometimes
in shades of Gatorade and popsicles.
On very bad days you can wrap yourself up
like a burrito and bite on a corner of a nurse quilt
until the pain meds start to work
and the sleep curtain comes down.
Nurses make the best quilts because they know
how radiation can burn and leave sores,
how metastases can leave tears on the bedding,
how sensory nerves can shoot fire.
Copyrright, Anne Vinsel, 2016
Anne Vinsel began writing poetry in 2013. She has an M.S. In psychology from the University of Utah and an M.F.A. In printmaking, also from the University of Utah. She has received honorable mention (short fiction) and first place (poetry) awards from the Utah Original Writing Competition, has had one poem published in Pulse, a medical literature journal, and has received an honorable mention for a very short story in Glimmer Train and placed third in the most recent Glimmer Train fiction open. She was one of three finalists in a Story to Script competition judged by Lemony Snickett, whose first prize was turning a short story into a claymation movie. She is the photographer for the book Meet Virginia: Biography of a Breast, a photographic chronicle of a young breast cancer patient’s journey through surgery. She lives in the Salt Lake Avenues district with her pit bull, Dr. Jackson.
Past featured writers in 15 Bytes’ Sunday Blog Read: Katharine Coles, Michael McLane, Darrell Spencer,Larry Menlove,Christopher Bigelow, Shanan Ballam,Steve Proskauer,April Wilder,Calvin Haul, Lance Larsen,Joel Long,Lynn Kilpatrick,Phyllis Barber, David Hawkins,Nancy Takacs,Mike Dorrell,Susan Elizabeth Howe, Star Coulbrooke, Brad Roghaar,Jerry Vanleperen,Maximilian Werner, Markay Brown, Natalie Young,Michael Sowder, andDanielle Beazer Dubrasky, Kevin Holdsworth, Jacqueline Osherow,Stephen Carter, Alex Caldiero, Stephen Tuttle, Raphael Dagold, David Lee, Lisa Bickmore, Kirstin Scott, Jesse Parent, Craig Dworkin, Laura Stott, Jana Richman, Melody Newey Johnson, C. Wade Bentley, Amy Brunvand, Janine Joseph and Paisley Rekdal.