Iowa Writes

from "Night Rhythms"

I leave Dean's bedside to make 2 a.m. rounds. The in-patient unit at the children's hospital is dim and silent except for a metallic hum that can be heard, just barely, in the air. I am in my nursing assistant uniform, white, except for the splotch of creamed ham I spilled on the leg during a now distant daytime feeding. There are eleven patients, all children, the oldest nineteen, only a couple of years younger than me. They're all disabled—cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, failure-to-thrive. But that is during the day. They're asleep now, free from their daytime gnawing and spasms.

My assignment tonight is to go from one room to the next, checking diapers and catheters. This round there are not many to check. So I just listen to their breathing, and if it is too silent, I place my hand on their rib cage, gently, to feel the measure of their sleep. I'm glad it's not the designated hour to reposition them, to wake them, interrupt, and if they've had surgery, to cause them pain. That time is two hours away. For now, I can just watch and feel for their breath, celebrating the trail of drool for what it means: peace. Sleep the elixir. I am extra quiet.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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John T. Price, a professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, lives in western Iowa with his wife Stephanie and two young sons. He is author of Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands. The entire essay "Night Rhythms" can be found in his new book, Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships, published on April 15 by Da Capo Press.

This page was first displayed
on May 01, 2008

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