Visiting Hours by Peter Vertacnik

Visiting Hours

That evening while her loved ones sat beside
The bed it seemed she might be getting well.
Even when her boy fidgeted and cried
She felt calm, lulled by his familiar smell,

As by her husband’s voice when he recounted
His day: a haircut, work, the grocery store.
Both scent and tenor gradually surmounted
The fear that she should never hope for more

Than intermittent health. No regimen
Or drug the doctors ordered could relieve
The pain her family had quelled again
By visiting, though soon they’d have to leave.

Then she would wait alone for sleep—a guest
Who seldom came; or coming, brought no rest.

by Peter Vertacnik, first published in Lucid Rhythms.

Editor’s Note: The slow movement of this Shakespearean sonnet draws the reader into the patient’s world. The volta at the end emphasizes her tragic existence beautifully.