If it isn’t written in the chart, it didn’t happen

Christine Higgins

The doctor covers my mother’s hand

with his own hand. Her hand is

a speckled egg he is keeping warm.

The nursing assistant reaches out

to touch the yellow roses,

and murmurs, “Bonito.”

Several people come in and speak

cheerily to the bedcovers and the curtains,

but not to my mother,

who no longer makes eye contact.

Trays appear and disappear,

and so do cups of melted ice water.

After dinner, I gently remove my mother’s teeth

and wash them in the sink.

A male nurse on night duty offers me

a soft cotton blanket, my favorite kind.

As my mother sleeps,

the housekeeper mops the floor.

A gray strand gets caught

around the caster of her bed,

and then it breaks free.

About the poet:

Christine Higgins is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. She has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow and the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Award. Her work has appeared in many journals including Poetry East, PMS poemmemoirstory, America and Naugatuck River Review. Her chapbook Threshold was published in 2013 by Finishing Line Press. Visit her website at christinehigginswriter.com.

About the poem:

“The poem arises from the occasion of sitting vigil in the hospital with my mother, who was dying. In a twist on the doctor’s dictum ‘If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen,’ the poem records all the things that happen which seem significant to the poet, but have otherwise gone unrecorded.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer


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6 thoughts on “If it isn’t written in the chart, it didn’t happen”

  1. rose zwerenz, md

    Oh, my, these words bring flashes of memories from my own mother’s last days on earth. Things are so different when we are on the “other side of the bed rail”…

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