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"In gratitude for the relief of human suffering by the inhaling of ether
a citizen of Boston has erected this monument."
-Monument to Ether, Boston Public Garden

Impending agony snakes
through the scene draped and readied
for screaming amputation,
the gleaming instruments
just as cold in stone.
The doctors must have felt like gods
sending the patient into deathlike sleep,
bringing him back like Lazarus.

Their triumph rises in the marble:
tier on tier of calm gratitude
impervious to the brittle air
where anger can flare like a quick match
and words blaze high and rough
as skyscrapers.

I yearn to be soft,
to ride on coasts of painless night
and feel time like slow honey
drift downstream.
Carry me on clouds
to a floating place.
Do not cut out my heart
until I sleep.

previous poem



lost language


figure and ground


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©2004 Ellen Steinbaum

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The cover of my book, Afterwords, was designed by Kate Misail.
The Painting on the cover of Afterwords is by Eric Sealine.
The painting on the cover of Container Gardening is by Faith Hochberg.

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