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I imagine Emma on a winter night, an eight-year-old curled fireside in a wing chair, proving her skill with weeping willows...
I did my beSt
-Emma Hull 1793
I imagine Emma on a winter night,
an eight-year-old curled fireside
in a wing chair, proving her skill
with weeping willows fashioned
from a rhythm of XXXs, gold diamonds
suspended like stars in the corners,
an alphabet without J, abandoned at q,
sutured with blood red silk.
Hung now in my child’s room,
the mottled linen square hides
all signs of Emma’s struggle
as she aimed her needle’s sharp intent
with all the backbone a soul can summon.
For years I believed she stopped before Z
from boredom or springtime, but now
I imagine her bedridden, fallen
from her horse, threading hours
until recovery, inspiring me
after my own daughter’s Shanghai crash,
one vertebrae crushed, spinal cord
spared, flat on her back in Ruijin Hospital
waiting for titanium rods and screws,
her surgeon and I reviewing the MRI
when he makes a pledge: I will do my best
to take good care of your daughter,
words that make me dizzy, ecstatic,
comforted by a strange harmony
with Emma’s assertion, suddenly trusting
him in my bones, how he understood
the A B C’s of hope and taught me
to make his promise to every patient,
enduring as diamonds sewn into cloth,
simple enough for a child to grasp.
Dr Berlin is Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.