How I Save My Husband’s Life

by Patricia McMillen

Featured Art: Forever Roses by Simona Aizicovici



He’s dead asleep at 4 a.m. the day

after my bunion surgery, when I

climb out of bed to pee, rising too fast,

and pass out in the bathroom, landing slumped

against the tub, waking him with my cry,

and he too rises, runs to the doorway,

and catching sight of me, kneels at my head

distraught, cradling me like a mortician


until I wake disoriented, shout

at him to call 9-1-1 and he runs

through the dark kitchen for the phone and, faint

from shock, trips over the rocker and falls, tearing

his rotator cuff so I have

to call my own damned ambulance but it’s


all right, sweetheart: as our ambulance wails

into the ER (your arm dangling, mine hooked

up to saline in a plastic bag),

it’s not the EMT’s firm biceps, lush

dark eyelashes, no, it’s your pale grimace

I’m glad to see, your clammy hand I grip,

happy to know I’ll have to stick around,

shouting orders, keeping you on task.


Originally appeared in NOR 13

Patricia McMillen is a writer, musician, and retired lawyer who holds dual citizenship on the East and West Coasts of Lake Michigan. Her poetry and other writing has received numerous awards and honors, including an Illinois Arts Council poetry fellowship and a Pushcart Prize nomination (both 2002); four residencies at Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest, IL; a partial scholarship to Door County’s The Clearing (2019); and publication in RHINO, Folio, AfterHours, other literary journals, local newspapers and several poetry anthologies. Patricia’s poetry chapbook, Knife Lake Anthology, was published in 2006 by Puddinghouse Publications (Columbus, OH). Further work is forthcoming from Big Shoulders Books (DePaul University, Chicago). When not writing poetry, she serves as a dramaturg for Chicago Fringe Opera; plays banjo with her band The Common Taters; and files for divorce, most recently from the  husband whose life she savein 2012.


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