PATIENT BELONGINGS

Standard

As if you owned nothing
but a pair of earrings,
the two gold hoops that once hung
from the lobes of your living ears

now occupied a little plastic box
marked “patient’s belongings”
someone left for me to find
on the still, hard mound of your chest.

No sign of your cobalt blue kimono
or the brand new underwear
you had been saving in a drawer
and asked me to fetch for you–

my hands shaking–once we knew
the ambulance was on its way.
We lost connection after that.
They came, and you were gone.

Your earrings and I,
with only the turned-off machines
pushed back against the walls to overhear

said our appalling last goodbye.  Then
stunned to a disbelief way beyond sorrow,
we went home.  In time

I gave the earrings to your sister–
as you know she is a fool for jewelry–
who felt they should be hers.

Most of your other things have gone,
piecemeal, over the years,
each time tearing at the heart.

Only your favorite flannel shirt
stays in the closet still,
its empty arms hanging by its sides,

a last most patient belonging,
waiting for its purpose
to be once again fulfilled.

5 responses »

  1. I had read this before, and found it moving, particularly in its simplicity and directness. Reading it again, more of its telling details spring forward – and not least the final two stanzas. Such an emotional poem, under layers of restraint. I almost feel I am intruding, but of course there are universal experiences here and I am glad that you have offered it to others to read.

  2. I love your comment, John, because it gets me thinking. This is one of those works that began with just a play on words (the title) then wrote itself out of the bare facts and objects –for a poet, the best kind of happening because one is not only a composer but also, mysteriously, an instrument. Maybe T.S.Eliot ‘s theory of the objective correlative still lives.

  3. I too found this poem profoundly touching . It does resonate within the depth of my being. One often talks about the miracle of witnessing a birth yet, there are no words to describe the experience of watching and waiting while a loved one inches closer to death’s threshold. The loved
    one’s belongings then become so much more- They live on to say I was here! Eileen P.S. My mother’s raincoat that she so loved still hangs in the closet. I can’t bear to give it away.

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