Pectoriloquy |

Why I Stole My Own X-Rays FREE TO VIEW

Lisa Albers, MFA
Author and Funding Information

Correspondence to: Lisa Albers, MFA; e-mail: lisaalbers@comcast.net

Editor's Note: Lisa Albers says of this poem, “Besides the oddity of having to steal back your own image, I was struck by the idea of what an X-ray can and cannot reveal, despite its ability to penetrate flesh.” She is a freelance writer based in Seattle.

—Michael Zack, MD, FCCP, Section Editor of Pectoriloquy

Editor's note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy: Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestjournal.org/misc/reprints.shtml).

Chest. 2008;134(3):668. doi:10.1378/chest.08-0032
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Published online

In 1994, a car accident,
a trip to the chiropractor.
I waited in his office. On the light box
was a chest x-ray.
The spine between the breasts
angled sharply left.
As if to balance that curve,
above the iliac crest,
the vertebrae swung right,
shifting the hip up, a permanent
swivel, the spine
an imperfect S.
I could not connect
the dots. The chiropractor:
Have you ever seen an x-ray of your spine?
It dawned slowly:
The x-ray was mine.
An explanation for the way my right heel knocks
against left. The permanent shrug
in my shoulder
the spot in my back that I roll
against wall corners, the edge of doors
looking for relief.
Twelve years later, I am leaving my husband,
and I am in pain. My hip is on fire,
my shoulder frozen.
The doctor orders a chest x-ray.
Later, the post card tells me
there is a 22-degree curvature
both thoracic and lumbar
and that my right hip
is five millimeters higher than left.
The post card is insufficient.
I take off work, wait for my doctor.
She has not reviewed my chart,
does not have the x-rays.
She thinks there is a floating bone,
or maybe it's a fungus, a “granuloma,” she says,
reading the report for the first time.
I can go to radiology if I want.
As I leave her office, I think of my husband—
his dentist gave him films of his teeth,
the jaunty roots all in a row,
little white tent stakes.
No one in radiology can talk about x-rays;
they only take them.
But I can check them out, as if this were a library,
and only if I take them back to my doctor.
I should obey the rules,
but instead, I walk past a woman with a cane,
let the E/R doors fly open for me.
Striding beyond hospital grounds, clutching my own x-rays,
I think of my husband, the films of his teeth.
I can hear him sweetly saying, My gal. He's with me
as I cross the street, fling open the doors
of the camera store, place the huge white envelope
marked X-Ray Films Do Not Bend on the counter
and say, Make me a copy of these, please.
This is why I stole my own x-rays:
To show my man who I am,
past the clothes and the skin,
to the defects he will have to love
if I am to stay.




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