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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.



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