Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Spiral Fusion

I was spiraling before I knew what spiraling meant.

           My ivy vine vertebrae mimicked a city loft’s metal staircase,

                    wrought-iron ribcage gnawing at imperfection from this spiral scoliosis.

                                 They said I’d need surgery — a spinal fusion. To me: a death sentence.

                                     Medical mishaps in mind, I begged for another choice where my rusted

                                 tears don’t succumb to anesthesia in less than a year, confess “time’s up.”

                     I wondered if I’d die in a sterile grave, each day closer to my last:

          last holidays, birthdays, last year of school, last breath of air.

Spending sleepless nights with WebMD questions left unanswered,

I learned I had little choice but to operate on my melodramatic tragedy.

    Prepare for my descent down the vertebrae stairs to the operating room,

                    haunted by the thought of shifting my spine from a spiral staircase

                                  to normal. Titanium hardware straightening my body, easing the climb,

                                  yet this looked like a straightaway running out of time.


                      Down a straight hallway, I was running out of time,

                                saying “I think it’s working now,” going cold a moment

                                  later. Several hours unconscious, doctors and technology

                                         worked to fix me. I awakened to ask, Where did everybody go?

                               Hospital beds, ICU, throbs of pain through my drugged brain,

                               x-rays, refusing opioids because what if I get addicted?

                   Walking felt better than sitting, or standing white-faced to greet

                      the rising sun of infirmary lights. Four days in hospital hellscapes,

                         read-aloud fairytales shook me with laughter, so hard the pain

                               was worth it. Woken up to factory reset walls by nightshift nurses;

                              Wondering “When can I leave?” I walked to pass the time.

                           The factory lineup: three IVs, bruises burning painkillers down my wrists,

               sleepless nights, yearning for freedom. I wondered when this world

              would let me go home, bedridden with a spinal staircase unfurled.


                    They let me go home, though bedridden with my spine unfurled.

                         I slept in the basement because it was closer to everything:

                  to the kitchen upstairs; the bathroom; my mom, whose home office

                        was an arm’s reach away. Fighting time and eagerly awaiting

                          a layoff from this job of reading just to forget another day.

                         I would write my way into a love for the craft, and I would

                              walk the same half-mile trail over and over and over,


                                   until I knew the birdsong like a favorite record,

                         and the path warped into a concrete aisle cutting through

                             the factory of recovery. I had little else to do but wait

                                 for school to start at break’s end, for the surgeon

                                     to say I was free to move again, for healing

                          to reach beyond the confines of “a summer well spent.”

                              I was spiraling before I knew what spiraling meant.

Kiley Flynn  is a College second-year from the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania.  She is majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Theater. Her writing interests include fiction, poetry, playwriting, and everything in between. She wrote Spiral Fusion, a three-sonnet sequence, to reflect on her experience undergoing spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis. This sonnet sequence focuses on breaking some of the rules of a “traditional” sonnet and experimenting with how form can reflect the content of poetry.

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