Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Night upon the Moaning Ward

James Rickert

Poet’s statement: This poem was written during the final days of my stem cell transplant for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and just after a fellow patient on the ward had died of complications similar to those from which I was suffering. It and other poems written during that time helped me face the physical suffering involved in the transplant, and, more importantly, the loneliness and fear that filled the empty hours when I only dimly understood my day to day situation. The poetry also helped me focus on my hope for a new day once treatment was complete; this hope remained vitally important to me throughout the procedure.

White lily reflected in the water

The everlasting sleep false nights on cold
Ceramic floor and bitter acid cough.
Convulsive gags that shudder my chest and hold
My torso bent like windswept boughs
Of ice caked aching face and head–
Until my eyes can’t find the door from now
To yesterday and fear blinds them. My bed
Crouches so far askew I lose its sight.
Now blind but for the pills, the pills, the pills,
And all the infusions that my veins will ache
Like blood spilling and scream the night of shrill
Unguarded hope my exhausted body won’t break
Before the trees outside fluoresce in chilled
And dew bright silver fire, and my lilies open awake.


DR. JAMES RICKERT is a practicing orthopedist in Bloomington, IN. He founded The Society for Patient Centered Orthopedics, a patient advocacy group (www.thepatientfirst.org).


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2010 – Volume 2, Issue 1

Winter 2010  |  Sections  |  Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.