Remembering the Beginning

Jacqueline Dooley ~

I was unprepared
for the feel of your hair pulling free
with every brushstroke.
I wasn’t up to autumn
from the side of your hospital bed.
It seemed too much
for the universe to ask.
But, like you, I was choiceless
as I drove through November streets
the colors, drained and faded,
like your face when the chemo went in,
reduced to nothing more
than what I was when you were born.
I covered your exposed head.
I tried to stop your tears.

And now?
I’m wondering about faith.
Where should I place mine
if not in IV poles and gloved hands?

About the poet:

Jacqueline Dooley is a writer and entrepreneur living in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley. Her essays about parenting a child with cancer and about parental grief have appeared in Pulse–voices from the heart of medicine, the Washington Post, Longreads, Modern Loss, Mothers Always Write and Good Housekeeping. Her poems have been published in Chronogram and The Healing Muse.

About the poem:

“I wrote this poem when my fifteen-year-old daughter was on hospice. I had been thinking of the frantic first months of her diagnosis, at age eleven, and comparing them to her reality during the early months of 2017, when she was dying. I found myself wishing that we were back in the thick of treatment, because active treatment had offered tangible hope. My daughter was fifteen when her oncologist told us he couldn’t do anything more, and we had to face the fact that all the treatment she’d endured ultimately couldn’t save her.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

About the Poem


8 thoughts on “Remembering the Beginning”

  1. Jacqueline, I’ve printed your poem and tucked it on the shelf of my treasured ‘death and dying’ books. That is where I go for comfort and to be reminded that pain and suffering is a shared human experience. We are not alone. You are not alone. (I went on to read Longreads–“My Daughter Died, But I’m Still Mothering Her’–linked above. It was so informative and wise that I shared it on Facebook. I printed and saved it, too.)

    PS I energized my “Pulse” subscription today to express my gratitude for your continued work and for bringing authors and poets to our attention we might not learn of otherwise. You enrich my life every week. Thank you…

  2. Deep — simple not plain elegiac words, so sad. Your question comes right through the phone. Maybe take another look at the last line of the first stanza. Thanks for sharing your work.

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