Hospital Song

John Allen Taylor
| poetry


The nurses pass like wisps
of blue cloth brandishing
syringes of colorful liquids.
They say this is for pain
or this is for vermillion
or this is for dragon. They know
my smile means I stopped
caring days ago. I know
their joking means they stopped
caring days ago. We pass the time
by almost existing. I notice
with curious effort how the other
patients move their bodies
through doorways, across thresholds,
testing the air with all their skin,
their sick clothes, their capes
& veils catching the stale light
recycled from yesterday.
They die, sometimes. But I remain
with the wraiths & their jokes,
their needles & pokes
that sustain me—just this side
of pain, of feeling. Suddenly,
carnations & half familiar
faces at my bedside. I say
I hate carnations & smile,
rising naked from my bed.

John Allen Taylor’s poems are published in Booth, Nashville Review, Faultline, WILDNESS, Muzzle, and other places. He currently lives in Boston, where he serves as Redivider‘s poetry editor and Ploughshares’s senior poetry reader. He grows vegetables and brews kombucha.

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