Nonfiction from Sara Khayat


Original image via Morguefile

Spinal Fusion

Count backwards from one hundred.

Bend over, she said, touch your toes.

Doctor ran her hand along my spine and shrieked.

Eleven years of a lifetime summed up by pencil-marks. Mother read me hospital-bedside literature.

Eyes open to see Brother talking with doctors. Years of IV’s dripped knowledge into his mind. Being a doctor is draining, he said. I asked if there was a cure for that.

Vicodin and Morphine set Sister’s hair on fire. I had dreams that gave cold sweats.

Sometimes I forget the cold that meanders its way through the cracks in the laced gown. Sometimes I forget the heart monitor’s lullaby. The way the dead looked at me stiffly when passing by my hospital room. I waved my heavy hand and let gravity do the talking. I wanted them to know I caught their last mobile moment. I was there to see them out; I was their standing ovation.

Hands pushing me forward—

Sit up, they’d say, take deep breaths.

The machines kept shrieking. Keep breathing, urgent now, you have to keep breathing.
Don’t stop don’tstopdon’tstopdon’tsto

On a scale from one to ten—

Closed eyelids were never an answer. Darkness never sufficed. Wake up, they’d shake me. Bathe me. Stitch me.

Father is on the phone again speaking Arabic to family overseas. I don’t understand; he doesn’t want me to. I’ve got all these words but no context. Language is lost in the woods. Cedar trees stand tall. I keep breathing. I thank them for the oxygen. I thank them for the roots. The bent spine, the American tongue—apple too far from the tree.

French braids and caged televisions. Imagination trudging through mud. Closed eyelids. Heart monitor singing life into cold, tiled halls.



Sara Khayat was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is editor-in-chief of Paper Plane Pilot Publishing. Her latest book, ¶: unspeakable poems, is an experimentation with strikethrough and language (nouns that become verbs, verbs that become nouns in different contexts). She always chose truth over dare at elementary school parties. Proof of her writing can be dated all the way back to old kindergarten findings and floppy disks. Her mind is full of wildflowers, ladybugs and grey matters. Give her a shout and she’ll give you a whisper.


  1. Diane Waian says:

    Love you

  2. Ibrahim says:

    Very nicely weaved. It sure brought back memories of one defining moment in your life that we shared together!! I Love it.

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