A Nemo amongst the anemones

In those gauzy summer days,
my cells were porous,
the bulwarks were yet to be built.

A shabby man slid in
through my wide-open smile.

He was a slippery eel,
cloaked in the darkness
of the unfathomable deep.

His body was an elastic band.
It sprang out and stung my insides until
his hurt was stuck there.

And the ion exchange of my
membranous innards ceased
and potassium chloride spilled out onto the New York City sidewalks,
illuminating the ground glass in the dark.

Sharp shards embedded themselves in my heart
The years trod slowly, suspended in the stagnant water
of a tidal pool that never washed itself out.

Until I came to the night ward,
that collection of brokenness and hope.
Those sick, spare souls swimming
upward towards the light.

They opened me up again.

Perhaps it was the collective sigh
that escaped from a dying man’s lips
as the church lights shone across the dark avenue lined with trees.

The clear blue of the ocean deep swam in.
And then out.
The salt dissolved the knots
in my stomach. 

And now
I am a Nemo amongst the anemones
and I won’t get lost again.

Photo by Elliot Mann on Unsplash

Joanna Clymer

Joanna Clymer is a recovering lawyer turned nurse and works at a tiny community hospital on the front lines of caring for the poor and the disadvantaged. Her areas of practice include hospice, detox and oncology. When she realized she could no longer tolerate the cognitive dissonance between her inner life and the practice of law, she began writing as a way to find a path forward. She has taught legal writing and estate and trust law at the University of Maine School of Law. Her personal essay, Death on Ward Blue, was published in ducts.org, an online literary magazine.