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Pectoriloquy |

Ash Wednesday FREE TO VIEW

Mary Brancaccio, MSEd
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Editor’s Note: The poet writes: “The poem was inspired by events surrounding my mother’s death from lung cancer. Despite the sterility of the intensive care unit, clouds of dust hung around the sprinkler heads on the ceiling. On Ash Wednesday, the full meaning of the dust came to me. My work as a TV producer of AIDS Lifeline was awarded a National Emmy and the George Foster Peabody Award.”

Editor’s note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy: Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.—Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2010;138(1):232. doi:10.1378/chest.09-2150
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In the hospital ward
mom is dying, sleeping
fitfully I keep my watch.
My gaze wanders the sterile room
spotless but for small clouds of dust
hovering on sprinkler heads
suspended above her bed.
Magnetized, the sprinklers draw
dust -- fragments of skin, hair,
the detritus of the living,
small milky clouds of DNA.
Whose fragments hover there?
Those of the living cured
those once here, now dead?
Remember man thou art dust
I whisper. My mind wanders
to ashes, last year’s palms
symbol of life’s frailty
blackened cross, man to dust.
Soon the janitor fueled
by efficiency will sweep
these clouds away, pushing
billions of small molecules
the last leavings of the dead
on yet another journey.


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