On the Wards

by Rafael Campo

I pass you in a hurry, on my way

to where another woman who I know

is dying of a stroke that in the end

is nothing worse than what is killing you.

Same gurney, same bruised arms and mute IV—

you wait for what might be a final test.

It's something in the way you look at me

that makes me realize you have your own

mistakes you think you're paying for, your own

ungrateful kids, your own unspeakable

pain. Yet you look at me, still desperate

for just another human being to

look kindly back at you, to recognize

in you the end is not far off, is not

so unimaginable. Years ago

I watched a patient of mine say goodbye

to life. She was alone like you, alone

like me, she was in agony. She looked

at me, and I, afraid to be the last

thing here on Earth she saw, twisted my head

to look away. I almost do the same

to you, afraid you might imagine me

as later you lay dying, but I don't.

Instead, I look at you remorselessly,

the way I hope that someday I am seen,

the way each one deserves to be imagined,

and wonder at your astonishing beauty.


  1. Heart wrenching... to each our own individual judgment day

  2. Empathy is an astonishing human gift.


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Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)

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