Hospital Poetry

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Hospital Poetry

  • A hospital isn’t a home
    There’s no room for emotions – and no space to cry
    A hospital isn’t a home
    There’s no hugs and kisses – and no one knows why
    A hospital isn’t a home
    And does anyone really care
    A hospital isn’t a home
    But I can’t be anywhere but here

  • This is where your heartbeat lingers:
    somewhere between hospital bed sheets
    and the new-found aching in my chest.
    The bed in which you slept
    has been soiled by silent tears
    and your nervous sweat.
    You were always home to me,
    but I was robbed by all your misery.
    Replace your sorrows with an absence
    of yourself, and I’ll make my home
    in your hospital bed sheets.
    For some, this is a place of miracles.
    For us, it’s one of tragedy.

  • It’s not that I don’t like the hospital.
    Those small bouquets of flowers, pert and brave.
    The smell of antiseptic cleansers.
    The ill, so wistful in their rooms, so true.
    My friend, the one who’s dying, took me out
    To where the patients go to smoke, IV’s
    And oxygen in tanks attached to them—
    A tiny patio for skeletons. We shared
    A cigarette, which was delicious but
    Too brief. I held his hand; it felt
    Like someone’s keys. How beautiful it was,
    The sunlight pointing down at us, as if
    We were important, full of life, unbound.
    I wandered for a moment where his ribs
    Had made a space for me, and there, beside
    The thundering waterfall of his heart,
    I rubbed my eyes and thought, “I’m lost.”

  • Arriving late, my clinic having run
    past 6 again, I realize I don’t
    have cancer, don’t have HIV, like them,
    these students who are patients, who I lead
    in writing exercises, reading poems.
    For them, this isn’t academic, it’s
    reality: I ask that they describe
    an object right in front of them, to make
    it come alive, and one writes about death,
    her death, as if by just imagining
    the softness of its skin, its panting rush
    into her lap, that she might tame it; one
    observes instead the love he lost, he’s there,
    beside him in his gown and wheelchair,
    together finally again. I take
    a good, long breath; we’re quiet as newborns.
    The little conference room grows warm, and right
    before my eyes, I see that what I thought
    unspeakable was more than this, was hope.

  • I
    By the road to the contagious hospital
    under the surge of the blue
    mottled clouds driven from the
    northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
    waste of broad, muddy fields
    brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
    patches of standing water
    the scattering of tall trees
    All along the road the reddish
    purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
    stuff of bushes and small trees
    with dead, brown leaves under them
    leafless vines-
    Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
    dazed spring approaches-
    They enter the new world naked,
    cold, uncertain of all
    save that they enter. All about them
    the cold, familiar wind-
    Now the grass, tomorrow
    the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
    One by one objects are defined-
    It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
    But now the stark dignity of
    entrance-Still, the profound change
    has come upon them: rooted, they
    grip down and begin to awaken

  • Hospitals remind me of my father.
    The chilly fluorescent lights stinging.
    So much pain, but
    It has to go somewhere.
    Most people forget it exists until it’s too late-
    Life or death,
    And maybe hope.
    She wasn’t as gentle as I would be,
    Spoonfeeding him.
    His back, crooked, hunched.
    His gnarled hands, like weathered wood.
    My head on his chest.
    I remember late nights,
    Doing homework on my lap.
    Pinching siblings overwhelmed by boredom.
    I barely recall the sound of his voice.

  • i’m staring at the iv bag
    praying it would just
    empty faster but i know
    that’ll do no good and
    it’ll take at least another
    two or three hours and
    you’re sitting in what
    looks to be the most
    uncomfortable chair
    in the world and i
    invite you to lay on
    the most uncomfortable
    hospital bed in the world
    with me but you said you
    didn’t want to take up too
    much space and crush me
    but to be honest i don’t
    think i’d mind being
    smothered by you
    i’d still love you

  • I like seeing nurse frieda knitting
    as I like watching my wife knitting
    as I liked watching my mother knitting
    though she was more of a dabber
    (plain and purl, plain and purl)
    it’s not
    “women being in their place”
    or knitting the chains that keep them down
    the future, knitting the future
    the present peaceful, quiet
    as if
    the same woman knitting
    for a thousand years

  • Next to Children’s Hospital, in a hurry
    Down the stairs, two at a time
    Slowed down by a family, moving slowly
    Blocking the stairway, I’m in a hurry
    I stop, annoyed, I’m in a hurry
    Seeing me, they move to the side
    A woman says softly, “sorry” in Spanish
    I look down in passing, there’s a little boy
    Unsteady in gait, holding onto an arm
    Head shaved, stitches in scalp
    Patch over eye, thin and pale
    He catches my eye and gives me a smile
    My walk is slower for the rest of the day

  • They gave him a bed by the entrance
    Of the surfeited hospital’s wing,
    A drought blew on him every instant,
    With air and with smell of iodine.
    The window was a background –
    The sky and the garden in parts.
    The novice was watching, around,
    The coats, the floors and the wards.
    When, lo!, from the nurses’ fast questions,
    (Was shaking with her head a while),
    He learned that he hasn’t any chances
    To go this place out alive.
    Then he, very thankful, looked out
    The window, where a high wall,
    Was lit up by glare of the town,
    As if by the sparks of star-falls.
    There was the red suburb; and boughs,
    Of trees in red glare that swells,
    Were making the sorrow bows,
    Like trying to say farewell.
    “O, Lord! How perfect and dipped
    Your works” thought the man to the sight,
    “The beds, and the walls, and the people,
    The death and the city in night.
    I’ve had sleeping tablets and here
    I weep, plucking my cambric through.
    O God, the emotional tear
    Prevent me from looking at You.
    It’s nice, when dim light has been stolen
    To my deathly bed’s whitened sheets,
    To know that I and my dole
    Are Your irreplaceable gift.
    And dying in this clinic’s section,
    I feel the blessed warmth of your hands.
    You’re holding me – your craft’s creation,
    And carrying – your ring – to your case.”