Roxanne Halpine Ward

The Medical Editor at the Simulation Conference

Plastic bodies with heartbeats and breath, 

programmed for the day’s lesson: starting IVs, 

assessing for trauma, listening to the heart, 

making hard choices here in the lab 

where no one will die and students can stop, 

rewind, do it again, until you get it right. 


To support this simulated storyland,

booths in the exhibit hall offer life-size 

dolls that give birth, arms with veins 

you can prick again and again. Educators loiter, 

browsing for CPR manikins, trading tips 

on making it more realistic, higher fidelity. 


They become storytellers on campus: 

mixing up a moulage that looks 

just like vomit, scripting out 

the patient scenario, using plastic props

to teach caring for flesh. Rehearsing, 

so that after graduation when it happens for real, 


new nurses will remember how, in the sim lab, 

they’ve already dealt with opioid overdose, 

diabetic foot ulcer, post-surgical atelectasis—

gained expertise by study and practice 

and fiction--and they’ll know what to do 

because they remember a story.

we have a pig balloon

no really

my husband brought it home


pink and shiny

separate balloon sections for the legs

pointed ears and a bump 

for its curly tail


after the novelty

but not the helium

has mostly drained away

someone puts the pig balloon 

in the downstairs bathroom

where it fits perfectly

in the space above the sink 

it hovers there

watching us pee


This morning my daughter

comes in my room early

cuddling till the alarm goes off

but I’m not thinking about 

her breath on my neck

cold toes on my thigh


I am writing this poem in my head

about the pig balloon

trying to hold 

all the words sounds 

line breaks

in my mind until it’s time

to turn on the light


I don’t think it’s ever

coming down

Moo at 70 mph

I am the sort of person who, driving 

the highway through farmland, sees 

the cows peaceful on the hillside

and moos. Alone in the car, mooing 

with the surprising rush of joy 

at their gentle presence, brown

and black bodies bold against green—

like cow toys at this distance. 

A calf, color of my caramel latte 

in the cupholder, startles to his feet 

and trots off in all his little sweetness, 

then it’s trees, exit signs, faded diner 

billboard, whizzing by like every moment 

on this highway, every classic rock block 

on the radio, each breath in the space 

between here and there, every 

mile marker, every moo.

Roxanne Halpine Ward is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a past attendee of the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. Her work has appeared in the Georgia Review, Greensboro Review, and the Sow's Ear Poetry Review, among others, and her chapbook, This Electric Glow, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2012.