Poetry Musings

Tom Absher

This is another poem from my time as an orderly at the hospital in Boston.  My alternative service to the draft turned out to be a powerful philosophical and spiritual time for me.  In many ways, hospitals are like existential schools in metaphysics and ethics and religion.

Beth Israel: 2 AM

A woman was delivered of her stillborn
baby girl. She had been carefully wrapped
in an infants' blanket, fastened
with a safety pin
almost as big as the bundle.

I placed it on the gurney,
for the short ride
down to the catacombs.

The nurse and I
made a strange procession:
stricken honor guard
for a tender loaf.

Moving through the hospital
in silence, embarrassed to be
among the living, I gave up
worrying about what I had to lose
by beseeching God
for some blessing
on this child, this life
which had known nothing,
not even the pleasure
of a single breath.

It seemed no more absurd
than anything else
I could do.

As I made my crude prayer
the gurney's wobbly front wheel
made a squeaky music
echo in the dark hall
mocking the ritual.

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.

Return to the Table of Contents

Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.

This site is designed and managed by Neil Turner at Neil Turner Concepts