AM I GOING TO DIE?
They ask, and you know what they mean.
They mean today, this week, this time
In the hospital. Yes, you say,
Or No. You have a pretty good guess.
You say what you see, but they don’t hear
The no. The yes is what they came
For, or came to fight about. They hate
You as soon as you say it. You know this,
But you tell the truth. You have
A small hate yourself, for those
Who waffle, finger stethoscopes
And lie. You believe after thirty years
On the job that people can prepare.
Given warning, they can mend
Their lives. An hour is enough. It
Doesn’t matter, another nurse said once,
It’s a white lie. God doesn’t keep
A Book of Good Deaths. But you say,
It’s their last chance to make art.
—from Poets Respond
July 7, 2020
Janis Lull: “It was just another pandemic news story about health care workers, now from newly overwhelmed Arizona. We’ve been reading them for months, and this one struck me not because it was different, but because it was the same: one death after another. ‘This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. In fact it’s an ultra-marathon,’ said one doctor. It made me think of the Black Plague and the art of dying—Ars moriendi, which most of us, even doctors and nurses, haven’t had to think much about until now.”