[It is like a long tunnel]
It is like a long tunnel, the strange, shallow light of the hospital hallway shining against all the stainless steel they always put around those kinds of places. The steel shines a dark, tunnelish light. A feeling of objectivity they want to impart to you. Like, your baby has died. Objectively. I read once that they change a person from a person to a patient by asking them to fill out all that intake paperwork. On the paperwork, you can't write, under Symptoms, bone-splitting sorrow. Crying that won't stop. And anyway, I didn't fill out any paperwork when I came in because I was screaming my face off. So when was I converted to a person whose baby was dead. Is what I've been wondering. We all came to the hospital and briefly scandalized the nurse, who told me, You have a large group of visitors—what should I tell them? She leaned down and whispered, You don't have to see anyone you don't want to, honey. Her breasts pressing onto my shoulder. The starched uniform and the smell of detergent near my face. I did see my mother though. Alone and small looking. Straight mouth trying to control my perception of her shock. Trying to control her inevitable I-told-you-so. A psychiatrist told her we should set up my apartment again. Not healthy for me to stay at her house. Long stretches in which we say nothing to each other. She writes. Something to do with her hands, besides wringing them. I could stay here for the rest of my life, I'm so tired. And really, there's no one out there worth seeing. No one to come close to, or—no one who can get close enough.
Copyright © 2023 by Katie Berta.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Katie Berta’s debut poetry collection, retribution forthcoming, won the Hollis Summers Prize and will be published by Ohio University Press in 2024. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, The Yale Review, and others. She has received a residency from Millay Arts, fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia G. Piper Center, and an Iowa Review Award. She is the managing editor of The Iowa Review.
Known for its compelling fiction and poetry, Ploughshares is widely regarded as one of America’s most influential literary journals. Each issue is guest-edited by a prominent writer who explores personal visions, aesthetics, and literary circles. Over the years, guest editors of Ploughshares have included Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Rosellen Brown, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Sherman Alexie, Russell Banks, Lorrie Moore, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Richard Ford.
Many of today’s most respected writers had their first or early work published in Ploughshares, including Thomas Lux, Susan Straight, Carolyn Chute, Edward P. Jones, Howard Norman, Melanie Rae Thon, Sue Miller, Mona Simpson, Ethan Canin, Tim O’Brien, Robert Pinsky, and Jayne Anne Phillips. It’s no wonder, then, that Literary Magazine Review has proclaimed Ploughshares to be “a magazine that has published a good deal of what has become our significant contemporary American literature.”