Three Hour Glucose Test

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October 6, 2020

Three Hour Glucose Test

I have wished to be silent, to sleep deeply,
my body grown large again. Craving
only the juices – no pulp, no bone.
Before, my prayers were always thy will not mine. 
Now I want only this small life 
inside. Not in return for anything. 
The arc of a small arm in blackness, 
texture of spine. Five vials of drawn blood. 
I have eaten sugar and it turned to poison. 
Always the balance of bitter and sweet – 
the ruby pomegranate encased in its well-meaning 
but impossible shell. Or any ripening – 
apple, summer, the body thickening – each moment  
of fullness is already tinged with regret or decay.

About the writer: My name is Susannah Lujan-Bear. I got my first bachelor’s degree in English (with a specialization in poetry) from San Francisco State University and thought I had found my people. A decade later I got my bachelors (and then Masters) in nursing at OHSU and found another home. I am currently the Assistant Nurse Manager for two of the acute-care general-medicine units at OHSU.

About her practice of narrative medicine: When I learned about narrative medicine a few years ago, it brought together two of the things I feel most passionate about. I use writing to help me reflect on my journey as a nurse, as a mother, as a patient. I love the way all of us in healthcare – as patients, providers, humans – have stories that can connect us. 

About the poem: “Three hour glucose test” was written about a time when I was pregnant with my youngest child, Angel. I have always kept a journal, usually full of random jottings – words and phrases that come to me. At the beginning of this year (i.e. a hundred years ago), I was going through my garage and came upon a box of journals from twenty years ago. Flipping through, I read the phrase “I have eaten sugar and it turned to poison” and had a visceral memory of the thick glucose syrup I had to drink for this test. Writing the poem brought back how pregnancy for me was a time of existing in the constant balance of hope and fear. Now living with my children in these challenging times, I feel the same fierce need to protect them and the low-level underlying hum of fear that I can’t. 

Susannah is a winner of OHSU Library's annual poetry contest. Her poem is archived in the Library’s Digital Collections and will also be showcased in the OHSU Library entrance.  Winning poets will be invited to read their poems at the Medicine as Poetry, Poetry as Medicine event, to be held spring of 2021.

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