Sunday, April 14, 2013

National Poetry Month: Mary Oliver

There's something about gardens outside of hospitals that brings a sense of peace to the sterile environment you find inside.  This poem captures that feeling.
University Hospital, Boston                                                                                                                       By Mary Oliver
Image from here
The trees on the hospital lawn

are lush and thriving. They too

are getting the best of care,

like you, and the anonymous many,

in the clean rooms high above this city,

where day and night the doctors keep

arriving, where intricate machines

chart with cool devotion

the murmur of the blood,

the slow patching-up of bone,

the despair of the mind.

When I come to visit and we walk out

into the light of a summer day,

we sit under the trees —

buckeyes, a sycamore, and one

black walnut brooding

high over a hedge of lilacs

as old as the red-brick building

behind them, the original

hospital built before the Civil War.

We sit on the lawn together, holding hands

while you tell me: you are better.

How many young men, I wonder,

came here, wheeled on cots off the slow trains

from the red and hideous battlefields

to lie all summer in the small and stuffy chambers

while doctors did what they could, longing

for tools still unimagined, medicines still unfound,

wisdoms still unguessed at, and how many died

staring at the leaves of the trees, blind

to the terrible effort around them to keep them alive?

I look into your eyes

which are sometimes green and sometimes gray,

and sometimes full of humor, but often not,

and tell myself, you are better,

because my life without you would be

a place of parched and broken trees.

Later walking the corridors down to the street,

I turn and step inside an empty room.

Yesterday someone was here with a gasping face.

Now the bed is made all new,

the machines have been rolled away. The silence

continues, deep and neutral,

as I stand there, loving you.

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