Homage to Clotho: A Hospital Suite

Sissman, L. E. (Louis Edward)

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry
Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita
  • Date of entry: Apr-21-1999
  • Last revised: Feb-22-2010


The title recalls Clotho, the Fate charged with spinning the thread of life which would someday be clipped by her sister, Atropos. The two-stanza poem describes the circumstances of illness within a hospital setting. In stanza one, with a patient unable to urinate on his own, the poet employs desert images to suggest the dryness felt by the incapacitated sufferer ("throat-filling Gobi," "dry as Arabia," sunburnt cage of bone," "shekel," "rugs," "camel," etc.).

Stanza two begins with the riddle of the sphinx, another reiteration of desert imagery, but moves quickly to modern medical intervention by substituting the cane, the third leg of the elderly, with an IV pole for liquid sustenance and the "snake-handlers fist of catheters," ridding the body of its wastes. Clotho's role has been usurped by technology's miracles, and an appeal is made for the "kind, withdrawn face trained in the arts of love."


Sissman, according to his physician-friend Robert Coles, suffered from chronic illness. As a poet reflecting on meaningful events to inspire his writing, Sissman frequently reflected on personal health care experiences.

Primary Source

Hello Darkness: The Collected Poems of L. E. Sissman


Little, Brown

Place Published




Secondary Source

Hello, Darkness: The Collected Poems of L. E. Sissman