Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
I am awakened. Drugged later, I
sleep again, but I am aware of stealth
in the room and of the sound of wheels--
always the sound of wheels--and the rubber-
soled and the constant professional whispers.
These are the unholy--these
and the hissing of air from tanks and
the solicitous removing
of the offending dead. I
am a stranger myself, gowned
in white, married to medical science.
He who lay beside
me, as in twin-bed connubiality, is
gone. I sweat through
nightmare: they have wheeled him
to the basement to be burned in
a furnace that shoots him in a blast,
like fever, to our room. I try to remember
the codes lovers whisper across the night
spaces between their beds. I
think of how the body,
which cannot bear the weight now
of its simple functioning unassisted,
may still love, though no one loves it.
night after night I
keep drugged watch as they wheel
in the barely alive and wheel out the barely dead.
It is wrong somehow not
to learn their names or
share comforts like photographs
or home remedies.
So I keep watch. When the wheels
come for me, I make an effort. I sit up and say to one whose name I may not yet
The wheels you hear when
they are come for you will
drive the chariot of heaven
and push you beyond loss
and the professions of stars.
A longtime teacher, Carl Sennhenn is the Associate Dean of Humanities at
Rose State College, Midwest City, OK, where he teaches English and
Humanities. He has taught creative writing for senior adults and children,
is the faculty editor of the RSC anthology Pegasus, has published two
chapbooks of poetry (and is desultorily at work on a third).
Another poem by Carl Sennhenn
"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" Copyright © Carl Sennhenn. All rights
reserved. Published by permission of the author.
This page last updated 10-26-00.