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Hospital time
  1. M Rowe
  1. Correspondence to Dr M Rowe, Yale School of Medicine, 205 Whitney Avenue, Suite 306, New Haven, CT 06511, USA; michael.rowe{at}

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Time weaves what it touches so seamlessly

it can pass for fruit ripe for the plucking,

but here it’s leased to others—

the doctor who waits and sees,

the nurse who’ll be right back,

the cleaning woman whose shift will end on it.

All we know of it, lying and sitting

in this florescent light that clatters

against white walls, on

and leaves us dull and dreamless, off

is what drifts over on the airless breeze

of talk from the nurse’s station.

It gathers hope of a meaning coming in

and hangs heavy but insubstantial over your bed

like phantom pain from a sawed off limb

that reaches down from its dread formless cloud

for the simple touch of finger to finger.

Guilty of health and a sliver of freedom,

I weigh the odds of missing rounds

against a coffee run or stealing a moment

outside where light and time are one

to drink in and be drunk with.

But I’ve forfeited a million seconds

from my own brief account! I comfort myself,

to be here and, perhaps, be touched by the memory

of a childhood malady you might have had

or a distant cousin’s rare affliction

that will shine a light on your mystery

and give you a shot at many million more beats

before the last one that, in any case, comes for us all.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.