Off the Shelf
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It was a Thursday in November,
a day that felt like neither Thursday nor November
a few weeks after my diagnosis
that hadn’t seemed quite right, either,
and here it was, on the page:
the perfect trap, the perfect analogy.

The patient (My Name

No closing parenthesis.

Now perhaps you’re one of those people
who thinks that a missing closing parenthesis is just another typo,
like a comma too few or too many.
Perhaps you’ve yet to realize that the greatest danger
facing any reader is an open parenthesis with no end.

My medical record.  My diagnosis.  My trap.
For the rest of my life, it seemed, I would be tucked under the arm
of that parenthesis, the two of us, me a forever aside, a soliloquy,
nevermore myself.

I crossed the street from the hospital to the parking garage.
It was rush hour traffic and a white van scraped by me
like a leaf over a frozen pond.

I barely felt it, safe as I was behind my parenthesis,
like a cold, glass lens
that protected and magnified me
not into something greater but made me larger
with no more density — only diluted.

The patient, my name, the great divide.
I felt like a goldfish in its bowl,
an expansive bowl like an ocean
yet swim to the very edge and there’s nothing
but that smooth curve of glass — (
the world goes on outside yet here I am
all to myself in my aquarium,
my world and the world I see
forever separate.

Diagnosis or open parenthesis: which the greater evil?
Both had upon me the same effect and yet it was easier
to understand myself in terms of the parenthesis—
a parenthetical infinity that I had entered—
than to believe there was no barrier but that inside me.
My heart, my ovaries, my liver, my lungs,
each once cupped in () now just (


Amanda Rutishauser (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Amanda Rutishauser is a Class of 2016 medical student at the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University. She holds a BS in creative writing and microbiology from the University of Michigan and an MS in narrative medicine from Columbia University. She is the recipient of two Hopwood Awards and a William Carlos Williams Poetry award. She lives in West Michigan with her canary, Winston.