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Unnumbered Ward

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And accustomed ungentle hands of two blue-uniformed attendants
wrap the patient in suffering’s white bed gown
sewn with bright invisible emblems of virtues,
or pinned with them, as with fraternity pins, or mosaic pins,
meaning travel. Has he always only just arrived?
Really suffering, within and without his head
burn hot wires of pain: “I cannot bear this”: and does,
and does the time and place outwardly expound
what is within? To be well, to wear new clothes,
to decimate his wage for a necktie, a scarf or gloves, love
“your magic spell” scabbed his fevered lips, lay
no cold cloths, though to be him bent on him
eyes of those called to selflessness, lonely for more selfish days.

James Schuyler, "Unnumbered Ward" from Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems, edited by James Meetze and Simon Pettet, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by the Estate of James Schuyler. All rights reserved.
Source: Poetry (November 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Unnumbered Ward

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