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Blessed are they who believe they suffer
your justice. In the ICU a woman said,
“I’m being punished.” A silence nested there
until a nurse set down a paper cup of meds

and asked, “From one to ten, where is your pain?”
then turned to raise the question of my belonging,
a familiar sting. “Oh, I’m just the chaplain,”
I shrugged. The nurse said, “Thanks for visiting,”

although at three a.m. I feel I’m more raccoon
—with questions curious as paws—
than brother to these patients, for whom the moon
seems closer company than either me or God.

To know them more I read the doctors’ notes,
the language like an alien’s, unclarified,
with words I squint to follow as through a telescope:
“Pt tachycardic but afebrile thru the night…”

And yet, I click NEW NOTE and start my own:
“Pt says she’s struggling with God.”
I chart it, pained to see it written down,
and fear I’ve represented the façade

and not the living space of her complaint,
which I hear as: “I’m alone in my own grief.”
My face is brushed in blue computer light,
burning in the same cool flame that wreathed

the bush where Moses heard you speak, alone
—though I am met with only the dim stillness
of these rooms in which no one feels at home
but you, Lord, whose silence lingers like an illness.



Christian Detisch is a writer whose poems, essays, and criticism have appeared in The Rumpus, 32 Poems, Blackbird, and elsewhere. He currently works as a hospice chaplain in Asheville, North Carolina.




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