Concerning Emma

Cozzi, Phillip

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Dec-10-1996


In this little poem the narrator gives the reader permission to observe an appeal to a higher order for help in deciding how best to care for a ventilator-dependent patient. The narrator seems to be addressing Emma's creator to hear his concerns.

Emma now "lives as a swollen eggplant on its stem" although she was formerly strong and healthy. The poet develops the theme of organicity as the narrator makes his final case for guidance: "I must tend the leaf as best I can / and, anticipating other seasons, / turn the soil."


This brief poem captures magnificently the sense of futility that attends caring for patients who one fears will not return to a life independent of technology. The narrator chooses to converse with One who may take credit for the creation of Emma, and to share this common medical dilemma with the reader in poetic form. The choice of the organic metaphors such as "eggplant on its stem" lead smoothly to the cyclical image of death and rebirth.

Primary Source

Annals of Internal Medicine 124 (No.12): 1085 (1996)


American College of Physicians

Place Published