Nursewifery

Wife, mother, nurse—these words invoke the vision of a woman giving of herself to sustain another with love, tenderness, care. Written in the voice of a military nurse, Nursewifery, speaks from the perspective of a woman whose job and gender prime her to view acts of nurturing as the highest of callings. The poems explore the way feminine roles both fit and restrict. Like the sutures that close a wound, this collection seeks to find a new way to envision acts of care, healing, and a woman’s capacity.

“Ruth Williams’ Nursewifery contains beautiful lyrics from the persona of a war nurse. I was astonished at the blood melt and rattle of death, the red weather of repairing a body, how tenderness can heal. Williams tight control of her lines always yields lovely and devastating leaps, opening up poems with each turn–the weight of a coat becoming a kind of company, parentheses serving as empathetic fences, the storage of nightmares from war serving as ‘a mirror to the skull’s interior coolness.’ These gorgeous poems had me reconsidering the kind of halo hands can make, the respect a wound requires, and all the sutures it takes to understand exactly what a body needs. Here, to cut with intention is like being held. Let each incisive poem hold you.”

Traci Brimhall

War Nurse

The world coughs up my body’s smoke,
then retreats from the windows.

Some soldiers outside yelling—
bleat, blare, blast.

The vertiginous shadows
are a warhorse I ride, sink

into the saddle. Acts of open
sacrifice, my hips leave

half-circle marks
on dark leather.

Surrounded by feminine fabrics,
the blood becomes

a beaker of my kindnesses
I sip on the sly.

My face, covered
like a bride.