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Abstract Post–dualist philosophies of nursing acknowledge embodiment as a condition of human existence. Philosophical writing, however, remains abstract and disembodied. A philosophical framework that embraces embodiment needs to recover the materiality of language; its text needs to include language that is not only rational and clear but sensuous and ambiguous. I describe three cultural narratives of women's embodiment and compare them with an imaginative narrative, a nurse's poem about women in labour. I propose, not that philosophers become poets, but that they abandon a dualist position in which language is either literal or metaphorical, adopting instead the poet's approach in which any word or object has unlimited meanings. I argue that, without fixed reference points, language embodies rather than escapes contingency. Finally, I discuss two forms of philosophical writing – irony and motet – that savour contingency, illustrating philosophy as endless redescription, aiming not for finality but for the grace of a dancer's deliberate fall.