restricted access The Nurses
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8 The Nurses I can hear them in there, laughing, the nurses on the children’s cancer ward, as I walk through, my heart snagged on a child in room 206, the boat of my hopes tipping its freight into the water, because kids in here are dying, like trees turning in the fall so slowly that we have to dwell on each interval of suffering. The door opens a slice and I see nurses leaning into laughter, collapsing, gripping each other’s arms. Their laughter skates on air, it fills the room up, it towers above us. I shut the door. They laugh because grief adheres to them as desire adheres to beautiful women. They have to pick it from their fur. They have to help each other comb it out. They study jokes as farm girls study dresses in a catalog. They balance on a high beam of laughter, knowing if they laugh they might come back tomorrow. —For Jean Fergusson ...


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