Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

The Homemaker

Jessica A. Harder, MD
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Poet’s statement: My poems explore moments of intense emotive experience, particularly themes of overwhelming awe and wonder, sensual delight, and excruciating empathy with those in pain or suffering. They also ponder the limits of human understanding, especially of science and the natural world, and the larger questions of meaning-making that can either plague humans or give them powerful feelings of joy and purpose.

The homemaker

Her skin glows like
something in a magazine.
She wipes his body clean
with a cloth bought,
she tells us, out of her own

Photography by Wolfgang Wander
Photography by Wolfgang Wander

She soothes him with lotion,
with powders, with a voice
like a mother’s song.

His books, I assume,
cake the walls: photography,
architecture, the workings of
the inner mind, must all have been
his fascination.

Now, he knows less than a baby:
pain or peace are his states.
Not even hunger rouses him
anymore, she says, and the
weight of the uneaten breakfast
tray confirms it.

She’s the only one who will be there,
in the end:
his wife descends deeper
into paranoia every day
and it would be unbearably sad
to observe this massive decay

But for her.

Whatever shines from her
as she cradles him out of this world
is like a beacon in a heavy fog;
creating somehow, strangely,


JESSICA A. HARDER, MD is a graduate of Harvard College and Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently completing a residency in psychiatry at the Harvard Longwood program in Boston. She has been writing poetry since the age of eight.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2011 – Volume 3, Issue 2

Spring 2011   |  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Your email address will not be published.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.