Poem:  An Ode for Nurses during a Pandemic by Marie Cartier

     — for Alex, a nurse I met who is also a poet, and all nurses

I heard that you are a poet
and a nurse. I imagine all the nurses who also
are something else—a chef, a Mom, a painter… a race car driver.
I want to image your life, this poet – and a nurse, in the middle of a pandemic.
I want to appreciate your life—and your stewardship of life and earth and what is in between.

I never knew nurses took an oath.
And I was a friend’s nurse graduation
at Royce Hall at UCLA, where we had both been to school, and when the
graduating class read the oath for nurses,
all throughout the auditorium nurses
stood up and said the oath with them. So, moving. So surprising.
I loved those nurses, nurses rising, and committing to their oath again.
And again, at every graduation they go to, they say the oath.
Bless those nurses, I thought. So grateful for your service.

And here you are, this nurse I have just met, a poet. The poetry
of living and dying and dying and everything in between.

All nurses in some way may be poets—the lines of our lives drawn though their fingers.

Illustration of Florence Nightingale

The cadence of breath, the breaking of
a line, the symmetry of a body
of work, of the body.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Do we get to
be a lot of things? William Carolos Williams was famously a doctor and a poet.
But, this poet-nurse I have just met, Alex, I wish you strength to be the nurse
who is a poet,
and a poet who is a nurse.

I wish all the nurses’ strength to be nurses, because we need you so much, and I wish you
strength to be whatever else you need to be,
as we nurse ourselves through this time with breath and magic and words and silence.

I want us to go on being everything good.

I want you, this nurse poet,
to be the poet that gets that reading, that poem published,
that writing done in the margins of every day.
The line. The words. The body of work.
And is a nurse.

Because we need you, we need you,
And we want your life to be more than just
us needing you.

For all the nurses I know and especially this young poet:
fly and breathe and write.

And be.

-Marie Cartier

June 2020, as part of #PridePoets West Hollywood


Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.

18 thoughts on “Poem:  An Ode for Nurses during a Pandemic by Marie Cartier”

  1. This is such a moving tribute to all the nurses who give so much. I especially love your line about how all nurses may be poets. This is how I perceive of the nurses who I know – they are all so deeply passionate about serving others that their lives truly are works of art. And the reminder to breathe is so important especially now when there is no rest for so many and there will not be until this pandemic is over.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nurses in general are marvelous, caring, and professional. I respect them more than I respect most M.D.s, who seem to think they’re gods. Nurses are practical and alert and pay attention to their patients. They’re the true heroes of our days and nights. Brightest blessings to you for recognizing them and to them for taking such good care of us. Thanks for the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The vows the caregivers are sacred. Caring for the spirit inside as well as the body. It’s breaking my heart to see so many beautiful people being pushed beyond reasonable limits to honor their vows. Praying for you all.


  4. Beautiful, Marie. My mother was a nurse for over 40 years. I often wonder what she would be doing if she were here for this. Would she volunteer? What would she think of it all? Your words brought her back to me today. Thank you.


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