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  • Writer's pictureArden Young

What if that was the best of it? by Woods Nash

Updated: Oct 31, 2022



Photo credit: Dominik Hofbauer for Unsplash


This morning, when 9 a.m. came

and went and still my daughter

didn’t wake, I tensed with fear

she never would.


I can’t be alone in this.


Last night, in a Tex-Mex parking lot,

she asked if heart attacks

are preventable. We were

strolling back to the car.

I would like to say I paused then,

a quiet hand cupped to her shoulder,

and turned us both toward the light

of Orion. Off in the gravel,

I wish I could add, a vulture

steadily picked at garbage.


But those would be lies.

Which aren’t nice.


Yes, I said eagerly.

Yes—well, mostly they are.


But in my defense: what the hell?

Is that a seven-year-old question?


If nothing else, it’s the second helping

of enchiladas I shouldn’t salt.

And it’s the treadmill that arrived

last March, still boxed in the garage.


Driving back from the restaurant, we passed

a billboard that said Reflection Taxidermy.


What I’m trying to say is, last spring,

while hiking, we were surprised

to come to a waterfall.

It rippled smoothly

down roots and boulders,

which had all been turned

the eeriest green. We could have stayed

on the trail, but we climbed instead

to the field above,

the cold creek,

and sloshed upstream

hand-in-hand

until it was clear

we would never find

anything like a source.


What if that was the best of it?


Tonight, in the car, she tells me

about a book she started—

the spark for her question

about blocked arteries. The dad died,

she says. The boy’s dad, in the story.

Heart attack. It was sad. But maybe not

so important? I don’t know yet.

I haven’t gotten very far.


She reads on her own now.


Her voice had come from the dark

backseat, where soon

she’s fast asleep. As fast as the deer

that graze in the weeds

and stand perfectly still

when headlights sweep.

I take the turns slowly,

this long drive home another story

we won’t get to finish together.



Woods Nash is Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Fertitta Family College of Medicine, University of Houston. His poems and essays have been published by the Bellevue Literary Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Louisville Review, Academic Medicine, Journal of Medical Humanities, and elsewhere. He serves as co-chair of Off Script: Stories from the Heart of Medicine, a twice-annual medical storytelling event that has been hosted by numerous venues in Houston, Texas.

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