The Nurses Who Saved Me

"Do you continue to revise poems after they have been published?" Yes, evidently, I do. This poem has just been published in Packingtown Review, a literary journal. However, after I submitted it, the images and ideas continued to needle me until it became this, below. I like to see how a poem evolves. I thought I would share this evolution with you. What about you? When do you know a poem (or a painting, or any work of yours) is finished?

The Nurses Who Saved Me

After she died, I was lost, I wanted to be, like a dry
windswept thing. Memories where we lived were
rusted barbs wrenching into me. So I fled

to the desert. There the nurses were like Sherpas
telling stories of their travels--the old hiker on the peak
attacked and almost scalped one night by a grizzly.

While it ravaged his tent, they dragged him behind a tree
and propped him up against it, digging in on either side
to warm him with their bodies, keeping him awake

with stories whispered all night long so he wouldn’t
freeze or fall sideways, bleeding to death before one
of them could run for help in the morning.

Meanwhile, they were terrified by the bear’s stealth
coming and going, scavenging his busted tent throughout
the long hours--a darkness they could smell but couldn’t see.

Listening to their stories beneath the stars I was
distracted from everything, so close to the fire
my boots turned gooey, the toes started melting.

The next day on a high outcropping we rested
from hiking. I closed my eyes while the wind
buffeted, billowing all around me

and contemplated leaping to see how glorious far
from this world and my suffering its wildness
would take me--but thought the nurses

on either side might try to save me. Not wanting
to risk what could happen to them, I kept hiking
and listening to their stories.

(See the published version at