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POETRY BY CANCER CAREGIVERS: ‘ars longa, vita brevis’

Ruehl, Katie RN, BSN

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000387274.39189.d0

the weathered hand of a war veteran rests in mine.

but his fingers have never touched a weapon,

nor rivaled an enemy with a face.

the opponent comes from within his body,

and it stalks his health until it cries for mercy.

this war is one of life versus death,

and today it is a battle that is fought in vain.

and though limbs display brave scars and bruises,

no badges adorn his attire

no medals are awarded to honor his combat.

breaths scarcely endure, broken tears are heard,

he suffers the frustration of a slow decay.

liquid salvation is delivered through a needle,

silencing the protests of a body whose

demise descends like a looming shadow.

the linens are drawn close: a white flag of surrender.

a whispered prayer dissolves into the air

surrounding the frail form of the underdog

who never stood a chance.

no one at the bedside understands,

though their eyes beg with questions.

the quiet nothingness of a sedated soul

lingers in the room, and all is still.

the curtains are drawn but light does not enter.

comforting touches distract but cannot heal,

they treat but cannot cure.

there will be no miracles tonight.

Submissions are welcome from oncologists, oncology nurses, and other cancer caregivers. E-mail only, please, to:, and include affiliation/title, address, and phone number, along with a photo, if available.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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