ICU

Sara Rempe

The women moved through silence
like monks through a garden, all focus

and white cotton, soaping, rinsing,
lifting her body to sponge

her swollen skin. We were
there when they cleaned her

of diarrhea, sliding an arm
under her when she struggled to move

she’d groan, suck in, drop–
limbs like thin shoots

of bamboo: rickety and trembling
under a papery sheet.

She’d climbed a mountain the week
before, stretching in the thin pure

air, ecstatic,
as though it were something other

than her body
that brought her there.

About the poet:

Sara Rempe is a writer and teacher in New York City. She received her master’s degree in creative writing from Hunter College and currently teaches in the college’s English department.

About the poem:

“I was hoping to point to two things in this poem: the swiftness with which illness can claim a person and render the immediate past totally incongruent with the present; and the experience of not being the primary caretaker when a loved one is in a place like the ICU. You’re forced to become an observer.”

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

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