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Muse 22

These are just a few excerpts from the many inspiring selections in Muse 22. To order a copy and read the entire issue, please visit our Support the Muse/Order Copies page.


Ubong Johnson, Locked Jaw

i walk into the pediatric ward today,
blue scrubs sticking to my black skin like kin,
and i am reminded of that Tuesday my mother lost herself.

that morning, my twin brother,
who was born a bright-eyed flower, died a tree.
stiff necked. jaws locked. limbs like branches.

death had weeks before crawled into his eight-year-old
body through a dirty puncture wound underneath his big toe,
seizing him by the nape like a bully.

he died a faulty machine, jerking and spasming, doctors
racing to keep life from escaping through his nostrils, my mother’s
wails slicing into the air; my father’s sclerae like wet red clothes.

i silently complete the arc of medical students around a small bed,
and my consultant’s eyes regard me as though she considers tossing
me outside for arriving late for rounds yet again.

she withdraws her glare, and the question meant to
humiliate me, my punishment, clambers out of her throat:
you, tell me what you think afflicts this child? everything about it, i mean.
and God save you if you don’t know.

i look down, and i smile. another chance to tell
my twin brother’s story. to describe clostridum tetani;
the reason i have chosen to become a doctor.

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George Saitoh, Renewal

I long to move
to the country
wake to the smoke of dew
rewinding down the barrel
of a Spanish sun
do backbreaking
work till noon
then sit in the shade
squinting out at shiny insects—
a calabash of well-
water beside
me on the table
I made—like everything
else there—out of my Irish
father's mistakes.
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Claudia Reder, Rehab

Shelling out meds from the rolling cart, nurses
drop the brightly colored shapes into tiny paper cups
that senselessly remind me of magic flower gardens.
When the tiny capsule sinks into water,
a flower would bloom—only here,
the measured pills are delivered
to wheelchair folk lined up in the hall,
one of which is my mother.
I pick her out of the lineup.
There she is! I make sure my face fits hers,
bright eyes matching bright eyes.
She always asks, astonished,
How did you find me?
How did you know my address?
I bring photos to show her I had visited before.
My arm around her. We are smiling.


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Jolene Won, Key Lime (excerpt)

There are already three other rigs parked out front when our creaky old ambulance rolls into the county psychiatric hospital parking lot that day. We groan to a stop, and I hear the driver’s-side door slam as my partner, Chris, hops out and goes to the window beside the sliding double doors to check in.
I turn to the girl in the gray on my gurney. “The facility usually only does one intake at a time,” I explain, a familiar spiel after two years on the job. “So we might have a bit of a wait.”
She nods, refusing to meet my eyes, before returning to picking at her cuticles. As the faintly Cavicide-scented silence expands between us, I pick up the manila folder I received from the emergency room, skimming the pages for the info I need to fill out the paperwork for this transport.

        Name: A.R.
        Age: 18.
        Date of birth: 4/11/2001.
        Reason for transport: Patient poses a danger to self, requiring 1:1 monitoring.
A dull ache begins to rise in the pit of my stomach, and I sneak a glance at my watch as I leaf through consult orders and ED triage notes. I try to be subtle, but she notices anyways. “I’m sorry,” she mumbles.
“Don’t be,” I say. “I’ve got nowhere else to be.”
She forces a half-smile, still never looking up from her lap. “Same.”
We both pretend that’s the truth. In my mind, though, I can’t help but picture her in a little pink kitchen with friends singing and candles flickering atop a cake she made herself, its face smooth and unbroken. Trading crumpled bills for a lottery ticket, a corner-store coming-of-age, walking away without looking at the drawing date. Opening a bottle and closing her eyes, a silhouette swaying silently from the ceiling fan...