Once my draft board finally agreed to grant me my status as a conscientious objector, I then began looking for
work (from the government's approved list) to fulfill my "alternative service." I found such
work as an orderly at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. I found the work ironic in its own way. I
was making a protest against killing and ended up (it was a main job for the orderlies at the Beth
Israel) tending the deceased patients, i.e. preparing bodies for the morgue, then transporting them
to the morgue. We worked all over the hospital and it was - for me - an education in ultimates. In that
big city hospital I checked my philosophy books at the door. This poem is one among many I have
written about my work there.
In Recovery off the O.R., where patients regained consciousness in beds with wheels, festooned by I.V. poles, tubes, and life-support gear, came out of the cloud of anesthesia. breathing hard, one breath to the next, to the next, as if she were numbering them - and then she exhaled in a sigh, showing the whites like moons. A nurse spoke: "Patient Murray went out" - then nurses and interns began disconnecting the metal trees canopying her bed, preparing it Such speed, such efficiency. I was new at this, I thought something such have been done at her death, some courtesy, some grace, a pause, maybe of the body, slowly, with dignity,
Comment on this Article:
Please enter your comment below and then click the "submit" button. Your name and contact information is requested. We will publish your name and city, but will only publish your contact information by your request.
Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.