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Pectoriloquy |

Custodial FREE TO VIEW

Donna Doyle
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Editor’s Note: The poet writes, “‘Custodial’ is based on time my husband spent in ICU following emergency open heart surgery for an aortic dissection. I will never forget the kindness and support of the custodian depicted in this poem.”

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2013;143(2):575. doi:10.1378/chest.12-0867
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Published online

Easy to ignore slow steps,
meditative posture bowed over
mops and buckets while nurses
and doctors hurry around them,
appear, even on break, always
engaged in urgent business.
Easy to look away from labor
to gather, contain, recycle all
we throw away, forget the hard
scrub to remove dirt tracked,
invisible blossoms of germs,
dismiss efforts to absolve surfaces
puddled by blood, spilled food.
Easy to remember the only person
who touched me that long night
spent awake without knowing,
the custodian who freed me, drew
me away from the wall that endured
my leaning, how she held on to me,
how all she did was hold on.


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