I Find on Bethlehem Evidence of Our Passing

Woods Nash, MPH, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of Houston Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

His poems and essays have appeared in Medmic, JAMA, Academic Medicine, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, JGIM, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Bellevue Literary Review. He is from Glasgow, Kentucky.

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I Find on Bethlehem Evidence of Our Passing

“In genetic counseling specifically, valuing patient autonomy expresses respect for the emotionally complex and nuanced nature of decisions about reproduction, pregnancy management, living with a genetic condition, and raising children with special needs.”[1]

I’m jogging in the cold toward Candlelight Park,

another trial for my old cross trainers.

My wife and I are in a post-Christmas funk:

giftwrap torn, casserole burnt, the house choked

with smoky silence. But out here, solo,

I lope with gusto. At the park, I hit the paved trail,

see twin girls scrunched in a pink Barbie Jeep, a velvet

ribbon blooming from its hood. What a gift.

The Jeep spurts forward with maniacal whine.

I sidestep just in time. One kid’s eager, the other

bored, their father plodding sadly after.

Their severed moods could be a metaphor

for something I can’t face. Lawns sport

nativity scenes: inflatable animals, trumpeting angels,

strange babies reclining on hay, their tiny arms

spread to everything. I jog on. OK, I’ll say

it: my wife wants a child, but I’m afraid.

Side street, bridge, and soon I’m lost

in my own subdivision, shiver and ache, the sky

smooth and blue and everywhere the same.

By a ditch, a fat squirrel kneads the earth

to hide an acorn. He spots me, bolts. The inescapable

is buried in our DNA, those pesky recessives

that won’t go away. I trot on and on and recognize

nothing. Days pass. A lifetime. At last,

a familiar sign says Bethlehem Ave. I see

a plastic poop bag flapping on asphalt. Wait, I know

this poop bag, crinkled and white like a fresh diaper.

My wife must’ve dropped it. She’s somewhere

nearby, walking our dog. A fine mutt, we agree.

Years ago, she rescued him from certain death

in a shelter in Shiner, Texas. Now it’s my job

to scoop his food, keep his bowl brimming

with water. She depends on me for that much.

Slowing to a stroll, I decide to keep an eye out.

I resolve to make sure our two paths cross.

[1] Jamal, L., Schupmann, W., & Berkman, B. E. (2020). An ethical framework for genetic counseling in the genomic era. Journal of genetic counseling29(5), 718–727. https://doi.org/10.1002/jgc4.1207

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December 17, 2022 7:04 am

Love this! There’s something about the line….. “another trial for my old cross-trainers.”……that sets the tone for the rest of the poem. It establishes trust and vulnerability! And then, I love the way the author introduces the theme of genetic planning: with twins girls playing in a pink, Barbie Jeep. His openness concerning he and his wife’s recessive DNA and the frank admission of fear come later. Very clever. I also love how the reference… Read more »

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