This poem by physician-poet Mukand transforms what might be unobserved and ordinary into the visible and extraordinary. A frail old woman with a disease of "no cure," probably cancer, is in the waiting room at a hospital or clinic. The narrator, whom we suspect is the second character, as well, a medical student, spins with delicacy a thoughtfully real and imaginative description of the waiting patient.

Readers see her "blue gauze scarf," "her gnarled, polished walking stick," and her pained body, but are provided with, additionally, an imaginary account of the effects of the disease on the woman as she struggles with pain through her final months. When the student enters the waiting room, the woman extends her "brittle" hand, then pulls from her black bag a sealed envelope. When instructed to open it, the student finds a fifty-dollar bill "to help with school." Caught by surprise, he smiles, but leaves the bill in her palm: "It lies in her palm like a / handful of earth picked up, raised / to the sky / as an offering to the spring wind."


The poem is beautifully and lovingly presented by the careful and attentive narrator, who in the rushed world of modern medicine and managed care efficiencies, has taken time to linger over this patient.

Primary Source

Sutured Words: Contemporary Poetry About Medicine


Univ. of Iowa Press

Place Published

Iowa City, Iowa




Jon Mukand