Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Battle of six feet

Mark Mosley
Wichita, Kansas, United States


Artwork CPAP pilot mask
Sleep (w/CPAP). Artwork by Howard J on Flickr, October 19, 2020. CC BY-NC 2.0.

They die alone now;
jet pilots soaring solo upward
muffled voices sucked into machines
speaking a language we recognize
but too distant to quite understand
until their plastic faces harden
and eyes glaze over like clouds
breathing in rhythm into the beyond.

We watch them curiously like fish
in an aquarium fluorescent behind glass;
heads inside our own bubbles,
yellow suits and blue rubber gloves,
coiled tubes floating around our bodies.
We are all eyes, theirs and ours.
Words are too hard to produce,
so we just look at each other, blinking.

They are in the air.
We are from the sea.
They look down for support.
We look up to them.
We are all in proper uniform
gathered company at the foot of the bed;
and then we slowly float away from them.
For soldiers only six feet away,
there is a vast space between us.



MARK MOSLEY, MD, MPH, is an emergency medicine physician for the past 30 years in Wichita, KS. He has been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic for the past two years. His greatest battle during this time has been the scores of patients dying unexpectedly, and almost all of them dying completely alone. In those moments, they are much more than health care providers—they are the company of sisters and brothers that have battled for the patient only six feet away and honorably saluting them as they leave this life bravely.


Winter 2022 | Sections | Poetry

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