God at the hospital


Two poems from Kate Day, an Episcopal Priest and Hospital Chaplain in Syracuse NY


Solomon in the NICU

Solomon was asked, “Who is the real mother?” “Get a sword,” he said, “and cut the child in half.”


Ten figures hunch around a table: five family; five staff.
No words can ease the taut, invisible cord of mistrust at this table.
Many words are expended through the translator; they are as futile as trying to cure the baby born with a condition “incompatible with life.”
Who is the “real” mother? Who truly desires the baby’s benefit?
Parents who want “everything” done to prolong his stay on this side of the great divide?
Doctors who wish to lessen his suffering (and their own), caused by each tiny, sterile stab into his tender, flinching flesh?
The only motion here: vibrating tension in the unseen cord.
At last, when every other word has been expended, the Imam’s voice rises sweetly,
Chanting ancient verses of life, of death, of submission to God’s will.
Tears flow; the cord slackens.
Like Solomon’s sword, the timeless song has cut right through it,
to the heart of our shared sorrow.



Joseph of Arimathea in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

Who is this caressing
the motionless toddler in PICU?
Who is calling her name,
brushing back tears?


Mommy stands out of reach,
dry-eyed and expressionless. She
will leave shortly to have a cigarette.


Daddy comes in to curse and blame,
He will not touch or address his little one.


Mommy’s boyfriend is in jail now, having
thrown this blooming girl into her playpen
with such force that she will never cry again.
What he might want to say
will not be said or heard here.


But someone sits at the bed.
Reaching around the tubes and wires,
he touches the unbandaged spots
and talks to her. No kin the law
will recognize, he has come in his
wheelchair: just a human being
in this inhuman story, doing
the last loving things that can be done.
He will stay until the end.


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