Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hospital Poems, Part 4: "And The Saved Man Goes Home"

Here is a hospital poem by James Reeves, one of my neglected poets.  Whether this poem is light or dark or deep or shallow I have never been able to decide.  (Which no doubt means that I am very slow on the uptake.)

                    Discharged From Hospital

He stands upon the steps and fronts the morning.
The porter has called a taxi, and behind him
The infirmary doors have swung and come to rest.
Physician, surgeon, and anaesthetist
Have exercised their skill and he is cured.
The rabelaisian sister with the bedpan,
The vigorous masseuse, the sensual nurse
Who washes him modestly beneath a blanket,
The dawn chorus of cleaners, the almoner,
The visiting clergyman -- all proceed without him.
He is alone beyond all need of them,
And the saved man goes home, to die of health.

James Reeves, The Questioning Tiger (1964).

                 Charles Mahoney (1903-1968), "Still Life With Celery"


WAS said...

almoner - there's a word I haven't encountered, the church official who distributes alms. I read this poem with some irony as to the meaning of the word death. I think the message is that the human element of receiving love and service when one is ill is lacking when one is well, making the loneliness of being healthy a kind of death. An interesting poem in any case, the celery picture surprisingly apropos as accompaniment.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...


The poem ends so abruptly, doesn't it?
You've chosen a very appropriate painting to emphasize health, and in this case I can say that I prefer the painting to the poem. Really you find the most wonderful works.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Sigler: thanks for that interpretation -- it sounds reasonable to me. As for the painting: I'm very fond of the colors. They seem very calm to me.

As ever, thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you for the thoughts, Julie. As for the poem: it still puzzles me. I can see your point about the abrupt ending; but, then, a strange phrase such as "to die of health" perhaps calls for terminal (pun intended) abruptness?

As for the painting: I'm glad you like it. I have only discovered Mahoney's work within the past year or so. It is interesting, I think.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Alex Noel-Tod said...

You may have noticed already, but if not : the Times Literary Supplement has chosen this as their Poem of the Week (18 Oct 20110), with some commentary.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Noel-Tod: thank you very much for stopping by again, and for the link to the TLS feature: I wasn't aware of it, so I greatly appreciate your pointing it out to me. I'm always pleased to see Reeves's poetry get more attention. It is heartening to see "Discharged from Hospital" appear in such a prominent place.

Again, thank you very much.