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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

dcam cafeteria, 8:30 am

By: Alexandra Weiss

the breakfast here is just like a hotel's,

transitory, sun colored and safe


we try to say it in other words,

attempting to maintain clinical veneer

when everyone entering the hospital

is a patient sooner or later

in the concrete staff tunnels i see piles of

sharps containers waiting to be autoclaved

the sugar cube foundations of the monolith

of matches and popsicle sticks

covering the pit beyond identity

outside snow falls

the storm was supposed to hit days ago

and the patient tunnels run parallel, painted

cheerful colors with bright lights to dampen

the gravity of tests and scans

but there's more to the hospital

than this surfactant

last year the clinic staff wrapped

all the exam room doors in shiny wrapping paper

and put out bowls of candy canes

and snowmen made from coffee cups

the whole office smiles at a transplant email or paging dr. stork

hush falls when it's dr. cart in clinic

everyone hoping against hope that it's

not someone they know, that the patient recovers

there's the keychain she kept for years, a present

from a long dead study subject

we don't want it to hurt

she sees me crying

and takes me into room sixteen to talk it out

the research room

where i learned to run pulmonary function tests

and tells me she called hr to ask for

advice on how to help

people with depression

everyone just wants to help

i bring the remains of an extra large coffee

up the staff staircase

winter sun through glass on the gray

linoleum and heat turned all the way up

and tap my card on the fourth floor id reader

it's ash wednesday in the hospital

the snow seems to have stopped

and tops the cars outside like frosting on a cinammon roll


Alexandra Weiss is a literature student and coffee enthusiast who moved to Chicago from LA for the weather. She's been previously published in Plants & Poetry Journal, Another Chicago Magazine, Haggard and Halloo, and others, and will have a poem in the upcoming issue of From the Depths.

"I wrote this poem about a month before the pandemic reached Chicago. At the time, I was in the last few months of a student contract at the hospital and really struggling with my mental health. I'd been debating telling my boss, when she sat me down and offered to help. I felt very vulnerable, but also very lucky to have people in my life who cared and were so understanding.

People tend to think of the hospital as a bad place, a scary place. And it can be, but it can also be an everyday place, and sometimes a beautiful one. But the people who stick out careers in healthcare have such big hearts. It takes a great deal of strength to care for other people every day. I didn't have that kind of strength, that's why I left clinical research. But the people I used to work for, they're strong as hell, and have admirable empathy. Reading it aloud for the recording, I almost cried because it's been so long since I saw my former boss. Everything that's happened since I wrote this only furthers my admiration for healthcare workers."


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