To Save a Life

Co-Winner of the Movable / New Ohio Review Writing Contest

by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Featured Art: Aperture, by John Schriner

We did what we could,
hid the bottles, drove what
was left of him deep
into the yawning hollow,
built a campfire, drank water
from a long-handled gourd,
a galvanized bucket.

We set up tents for triage,
counted his breaths, worried
over irregular heartbeats,
sweats, persistent vomiting,
his jacked up adrenal system.

We waited. Listened for a canvas
zipper in the night, each long slow
pull a call to duty, our legs folding
over duct taped camp stools,
tucked tight around the fire,
his gut-punch stories, stenched
in blood and munitions,
overpowering the woodsmoke’s
curling carbons.

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Home Fires

By Anne Kenner

I didn’t want to live on Sonoma Mountain. I was busy in San Francisco, with my job and my children, our friends and activities. Cities had always been my preferred environment; I like the noise and jostling crowds. But Jim needed more room and fewer people, country vistas and wide-open spaces. He wanted privacy and verdure, bike paths and hiking trails. So I agreed to look for them with him, first in Carmel Valley and finally, one afternoon, by myself in Sonoma county.

The real estate agent selected a few houses that fit our careful budget, and pointed to the first on a map, three miles up Sonoma Mountain from the valley floor.

“That one,” I said, “is too remote.”

“Don’t worry,” she assured me, “we won’t stay long.”

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By Lance Larsen

Featured Art: Fresh Air, by John Schriner

My job is to mow. My job is to coax the prairie
around my  mother-in-law’s house into green
chaos, then decapitate it on Friday till it looks
like carpet. My other job is to say dang
it’s hot and enter the kitchen and sip juice
and nuzzle my beloved at the stove when her
mother’s back is turned—an eighty-seven-year-old
back but still super quick. My beloved
has her own job—open and close the fridge,
push me away, and keep some things
cold like cucumbers and Gouda and yogurt,
and others hot like caramelized onions
and yesterday’s sweet and sour, and pretend
her mother’s Alzheimer’s is a shrine we’ll visit
someday like the Taj Mahal and not daily triage.
I still have other jobs, like having cancer cells
burned from my face at 3:00. Or is it 3:30?
I check my phone. Oh good, 3:30, more time
to decapitate the prairie and sip juice
and maybe swim slippery laps at the rec center.

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Pretends Everything Is Fine

By Beth Andrix Monaghan

Featured Art: Mom, by John Schriner

During my daughter Izzy’s third-birthday party, I was singing “Happy Birthday” when pain clenched my abdomen. At first it felt like a menstrual cramp, but it progressed to constrictions that made me want to lie down on the floor. I forced a smile, reminded myself that I felt close to pretty in my orange-and-white-flowered maternity shirt, and served the cake. Later, at the hospital, they stopped my preterm contractions with an injection and sent me home on bed rest. I was twenty weeks along.

The contractions continued in lesser degrees over the second half of my pregnancy. I spent hours lying on my left side, a position that the nurses on my OB’s triage line said would calm down the cramping. But new problems arose. I kept showing my husband, Patrick, the spot on my right side just below my ribs where I felt like something was ripping inside my stomach. My OB said it was probably just a ligament. 

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