Metaphysics after Emergency Surgery

by Cynthia R. Wallace

They cut holes in my body
and filled them with cameras
and knives, clamped and cauterized, perhaps
while chatting about their weekends
above my muscles still as stone,
their air expanding my quiescent lungs.
It was the closest to a vacation
I’d had in several years.
Later, they woke me and I was
colder than the prairie night,
trembling under heated blankets
rough with tumbling dry.
They sent me home hours later with
Tylenol and toast in me, on a ride
over excruciating ice-ridged roads to
my children and my bed.

I was grateful but unmoored.
I was unwell,
lost for weeks.
Where had I gone to when I wasn’t here?
Where had my inflamed inside flesh
been sent? How do these things
happen to people, over and again?
The surgeon’s kind precision is routine.
Someone washes those scrubs and cotton caps.
Someone cleans the table they have you climb up on.
Someone moves your limbs, disinfects
your navel with fuchsia fluid,
slips careful stitches through viscera and skin.
You only know this if you think about it,
though. You only see it in your mind’s
imaginations, extrapolate from familiar plots.
You were there, but you weren’t there.
Are you with God, then, in divine embrace?
Are you in the dark red Realm of Eyelids’ Backs?
Are you sunk down into the centres of your own cells,
sealed in the nuclei, the searing
space between electrons’ dance?
Is it a place of fear, or is it love?

Meanwhile, someone is covering your bare feet.
Meanwhile, someone is murmuring to you
your name.


Cynthia R. Wallace is Associate Professor of English at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan. Her writing has appeared in The Windhover, The Amethyst Review, Bearings Online, Commonweal, Sojourners, Geez, and elsewhere. Her book Of Women Borne: A Literary Ethics of Suffering was published in 2016 by Columbia University Press.

Image: Marcelo Leal

Image description: an IV bag hanging in blue light.