The Ship Pounding (Donald Hall)

Each morning I made my way
among gangways, elevators,
and nurses’ pods to Jane’s room
to interrogate grave helpers
who had tended her all night
like the ship’s massive engines
that kept its propellers turning.
Week after week, I sat by her bed
with black coffee and the Globe.
The passengers on this voyage
wore masks or cannulae
or dangled devices that dripped
chemicals into their wrists,
bur I believed that the ship
traveled to a harbor of breakfast,
work, and love.
I wrote: “When the infusions
are infused entirely, bone
marrow restored and lymphoblasts
remitted, I will take my wife,
as bald as Michael Jordan,
home to our dog and day.”
Months later these words turn up
among papers on my desk at home,
as I listen to hear Jane call
for help, or speak in delirium,
waiting to make the agitated
drive to Emergency again,
for re-admission to the huge
vessel that heaves water month
after month, without leaving
port, without moving a knot,
without arrival or destination,
its great engines pounding.

1. In both pieces, how does the use of metaphor shape your understanding of their experiences?
2. How do these poems, taken together, create a dual perspective on the lived-experience of illness as patient and caregiver?
3. What supports may both need in a family practice setting?


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