Jeanne LeVasseur ~

Even now, some eat strawberries in the sunshine,
some pace the deck in a strong salt breeze,
while for others, the music is winding down.
Always unfair–a few of us in lifeboats,
some sinking in the icy water,
others on a slanting deck about to go under.

We make salami sandwiches on rye,
smoke a cigarette after passionate love,
and wave goodbye to the yellow school bus.
We never know when–
until the deck slants and the loud machinery
grinds still.

Lucky are those who glimpse the stars,
get a chance to be noble,
to love and forgive, as the fugitive melody swells.

About the poet:

Jeanne LeVasseur is a professor of nursing at Quinnipiac University. Her poetry has been published in Nimrod, The Iowa Review, The American Journal of Nursing, Literature and Medicine and JAMA and in four anthologies, including Between the Heartbeats: Poetry and Prose by Nurses and Intensive Care: More Poetry and Prose by Nurses. She is also the author of a book of poetry, Planetary Nights (2015).

About the poem:

“The nobility of the musicians who, on April 15, 1912, played music to calm the passengers of the RMS Titanic as it was sinking has always struck me as a beautiful and clear-eyed act of heroism. This poem was inspired by the way we are all thrown into our lives, lucky or unlucky, on a ship about to go down. Some of us eat strawberries, preoccupied with the busy details of life, while others look over the rail and see the icy water that is coming. This capacity we have both to look away from our mortality and to see it coming seems uniquely human. Like the musicians on the Titanic, we may, in our last moments, experience a kind of rhapsody.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer


About the Poem

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email


5 thoughts on “Titanic”

  1. Jeanne, thank you for this lyrical poem that explores and celebrates the uncertainty we all live with. It comes just as another member of my family gets the news we all dread: it’s cancer and it has metastasized. Let’s hope we’re the lucky ones who hear the music and glimpse the stars.

  2. Arthur Ginsberg

    Titanic is a masterfully wrought poem that is a metaphor for life. Congratulations to Jeanne LeVasseur

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Poems

Popular Tags
addiction alcohol addiction allergies anatomy lab bedside manner bigotry breast cancer cancer caregiver stories caregiving chemotherapy child abuse childbirth children chronic illness complementary therapies connecting with patients coping with death coping with illness coping with patient death cross-cultural health care cultural competence death and dying death of a parent dementia depression diabetes disability doctor-patient communication doctor-patient relationship doctor as patient doctor poems doctor stories drug addiction end of life end of life decision making faith family medicine forgiveness frustration with healthcare system genetic disorders geriatrics getting the news healing health care policy health care politics health insurance HIV humor ill parent immigration inequality international health labor and delivery leukemia medical errors medical student stories medical training medicine memorable patients mental health mental health professional stories mental illness military medicine miracles miscarriage mistakes neuroscience nurse poems nurse stories ob/gyn palliative care parent stories Parkinson's disease patient-centered care patient poems patient stories pediatrics personal remembrance physician assistant stories poem poems/poetry pregnancy PTSD race realizing human mortality resident stories role modeling self care social determinants of health social issues social worker stories spirituality stress and burnout suicide surgery thanksgiving the bad doctor visuals war veteran
Scroll to Top