Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Death in the time of corona

Nivetha Subramanian
Palo Alto, California, United States


The Garden of Death. Painting by Hugo Simberg.
The Garden of Death. Hugo Simberg. 1896. Ateneum Museum.  Source

When several years ago,

a virus, continents away,

barred grieving families from

holding their loved ones,

I thought how lonely it must be,

to breathe a last breath,

surrounded by masked strangers.

I greet you this morning,

pressing your weeping legs,

listening to your drowning lungs,

and frowning at the red and green numbers

that flit on the screen,

the machine tirelessly pleading

that a blood pressure should not be so low.

Your daughters are sobbing on FaceTime,

two thousand miles away.

In a different time,

I would have held their hand

as they held yours.

The machine’s pleading draws to a crescendo,

as the inaudible rumble fills my heart

for you, my fallen comrade.



NIVETHA SUBRAMANIAN, MD, is currently a first-year internal medicine resident at Stanford. She has enjoyed exploring the medical humanities since her undergraduate years. She is a firm believer that art, in all its unique forms, offers a chance for connection, healing, and growth.


Spring 2020  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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