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American Passport

Lawson, Lauren Valk MN, RN

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: July 2004 - Volume 104 - Issue 7 - p 53
FEATURES: Art of Nursing

“American Passport,” a poem.

Lauren Valk Lawson is a poet and a public health nurse with the North Office of Public Health–Seattle and King County, Seattle, WA.

Lawson says, “I wrote this prose poem after several of my clients had unplanned pregnancies. Writing from their point of view helped me to understand that what I’d thought to be passivity was grief.”

Art of Nursing is coordinated by Sylvia Foley, senior editor:

He arrives. Smells of fresh air and light. American passport and stories of freedoms. He is a full stomach. So I agree to marry him, for what is a woman without a husband? Even in this place where we have no country. I swallow my fears and fly to America. To work in his business, tend his home, cook his meals.

I secure my place in our venture with the birth of a son, a natural-born American. I try to learn the sharp edges of this language where people have so much, but give little. They are a blur of color and form; they move so fast. And I am dizzy with confusion. Every day something new.

His business is not going well. He comes home late. It is hard to make ends meet, and I have to work again in his shop. Yet I have given birth to another son. I rise early, the sweet cheek of my firstborn still asleep. Bundle my newborn, work all morning, then back again to tend his home.

My tears and milk dry up. A dullness settles in my joints. Still he wants me to be his wife. He has counted 40 days and says it will be okay, too soon to become pregnant again. He rattles me with his need. I turn my head, look at my babies sleeping in the crib beside us.

So, when I notice the nausea of mornings, tingling of nipples, I tell him I may have another baby. Three babies in two years. He slumps on the bed, holds his head in his hands weeping, “I may kill myself if you have another one.” What am I to do? Because what would I be in this country without a husband? I let them do it, Allah forgive me, sweep the baby from my womb. My knees high and wide, only a paper sheet to cover my heart. I turn my face to the wall so they will not see my regret.

I feel so dried up I may crumble in sunlight. Yet in the quiet of night I still have tears. In them I see her, because I know this one was a girl. She walks, head high, into so much possibility.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.