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Tracheal Intubation

The first thing I remember after
they pulled the tube out of
my windpipe is a nurse by my side,
over me, gruffly insisting
I begin to breathe again.
Even now, sometimes I notice that
I’m not breathing, and I have to
remember to do what my body
doesn’t. In that moment, while
I learned to use my lungs again,
the bright ceilings in the recovery
room hung above our new bodies,
white and empty. I pictured angels
up there, painted like St. Joseph’s,
naked but covered by cloud and wing,
comfortable in their hovering—
aware always that they can fall,
maintaining faith that they won’t.
When rooms were ready for us
in the transplant wing, our mother
sat by my bed and I told her
about the angels and the church,
what I saw. But she told me
they were gone, that the ceiling
of the church had been painted white.


Emily Schulten’s poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, New Ohio Review, The Greensboro Review, and Cream City Review. She is the author of Rest in Black Haw (New Plains Press).