Medical History

Poetry / Nicole Sealey

:: Medical History ::

I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had sex with a man
who’s had sex with men. I can’t sleep.
My mother has, my mother’s mother had,
asthma. My father had a stroke. My father’s
mother has high blood pressure.
Both grandfathers died from diabetes.
I drink. I don’t smoke. Xanax for flying.
Propranolol for anxiety. My eyes are bad.
I’m spooked by wind. Cousin Lilly died
from an aneurysm. Aunt Hilda, a heart attack.
Uncle Ken, wise as he was, was hit
by a car as if to disprove whatever theory
toward which I write. And, I understand,
the stars in the sky are already dead.


From the writer

:: Account ::

“Medical History” is dedicated to the memory of my cousin Francisco Santiago, who died on August 10, 2015.

Truth is: I remember neither what I was thinking nor reading when I drafted this poem. I do know that it was conceived on the heels of another poem I’d written entitled “The First Person Who Will Live to Be One Hundred and Fifty Years Old Has Already Been Born,” in which the speaker attempts to convince both herself and her aging mother that they still have plenty of time left. Unlike the former, however, the narrator in “Medical History” is not under any false pretenses.

Also, the stars in the sky are most likely not dead. The distance between us and the stars is so great that we can only see the brightest stars, which is to say the most alive.


Nicole Sealey is a Cave Canem graduate fellow as well as the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. She is the author of The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press.