Being at the late end of middle age, I’ve found that turning to poetry has helped me sort through events of the world and my own life lately. People my age and older are often sorting through bouts of grief that come with life-changing illnesses, both our own, and our loved-one’s. Sometimes reading a poem that captures the exact experience or feeling is the perfect salve. A good poem communicates: “Many have been here before. It’s going to be okay.”

When I came across this poem by Andrea Hollander in a wonderful little anthology called The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness and Joy (Edited by John Brehm Wisdom Publishing 2017), I wanted to send it to everyone I knew. Instead, I wrote the poet and got her permission to post it here. This is about a certain kind of death, a hospital death. So, I dedicate this to everyone who is logging a lot of time in hospitals, saying goodbye to someone they love. Thank you Andrea.

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Andrea Hollander

October 9, 1970

The same automatic doors
and the same white-haired volunteer,
the elevator and the corridor
with its antiseptic odor
and hushed voices
door after door
down one more hall and again
through double doors—
but this morning
the lone nurse standing
before the door of 246,
and immediately inside,
the view through the window
of the other wing,
its dozens of identical windows,
and here the pale green walls
paler today behind the blank
screen of the TV
protruding from the wall
and on the movable
metal bedside table
the familiar plastic glass of water
with its bent straw
peering out like a periscope
through its plastic lid
as if only a hidden eye
had full view of the bed
and the body of the woman in it
who was once my mother.


© Andrea Hollander 2013 from Landscape with a Female Figure: Selected Poems 1982-2012,
Reprinted with permission from the author and Autumn Press.

Also found in The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness and Joy, Edited by John Brehm, Wisdom Publications, 2017.

Posted by Jennifer Brokaw

Dr. Jennifer Brokaw worked for fourteen years as a board-certified emergency physician before becoming a private consultant, patient advocate, writer, and speaker on the topics of end-of-life planning, medical decision-making and medical advocacy.

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