Honoring Our Nurses

April 29, 2020

Nurses are on the front line in the care of COVID-19 patients, and for many years Dr Berlin has admired and resonated with the poetry of nurse practitioner Cortney Davis. Here: a recitation of two of her poems.

POETRY FOR THE PANDEMIC

Richard M. Berlin, MD, Instructor in Psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Poetry of the Times columnist, writes, "Nurses are on the front line in the care of COVID-19 patients, and for many years I have admired and resonated with the poetry of nurse practitioner Cortney Davis who is also a memoirist, and creative non-fiction writer. I think you will appreciate these two short poems."

I Want To Work in a Hospital

where it’s okay
to climb into bed with patients
and hold them-
pre-op, before they lose
their legs or breasts, or after,
to tell them
they are still whole.

Or post-partum,
when they have just returned
from that strange garden,
or when they are dying,
as if somehow because I stay
they are free to go.

I want the daylight
I walk out into
to become the flashlight they carry,
waving it as we go together
into their long night.

And this is a poem to remember when you put on your next pair of exam gloves…

Mother's Gloves

I wear latex gloves
to keep patients’ germs away-
staph, herpes, HIV-every viral song,
each bacterial worry.

Accustomed to such risky love,
I rummage drawers at home
to unearth warmer gloves:
blue calfskin, the silky buttoned bone

or ivory elbow length I found
in Mother’s coat, now my own.
Are we bound
to work, age, sicken, die

alone-not skin to skin?
How can it be?  I, who can’t remember
Mother’s hugs, find my fingers in-
side Mother’s gloves.