Caroling at St. Vincent’s, 1986: Poetry by Marcia Pelletiere

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Caroling at St. Vincent’s, 1986

So typical of the sick, for years, my mind
bent over microscopes, brooding
for the millionth time about my injury.

But now and then the self
allows a thought for someone else.

This time an ancient memory: eight carolers,
in full view of a patient’s open door. All of us
were young, the singers and the invalids.
It had seemed, until that plague,

that we’d have centuries ahead.
At our first notes, the patient slowly sat up,
his partner leaning in. At the sudden
flood of sound, they embraced,

and our carols became farewell hymns.
Their time had passed its summit, was
collapsing into hours. Why does such love
come toward me now through them?

—Marcia Pelletiere


Marcia Pelletiere is a poet, singer/composer, and interdisciplinary artist. Her forthcoming second poetry book is A Crown of Hornets (Four Way Books, 2019). Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA); Alaska Quarterly; Outsiders (anthology); Milkweed; Prairie Schooner; Southern Poetry Review; Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. Marcia was born and raised in Massachusetts, and now lives in Montclair, New Jersey.