Whitman in the Ward at Chatham

A water-pail sits beside the bed.
Pieces of bloodied muslin fill it
to the brim, adding iron
to the sweat and rot in the air.
The man struggles to breathe,
panting his way to no man’s land,
a wounded deer with my reflection
in his dark, glazed eyes.
I charge myself, an acquaintance
at best, to stay until the end.
I wish for a quick death.
There’s nothing to be done;
he will die without kith or kin,
the ordinary chat and business
of the ward continuing indifferently.
I will be the sole witness.
Moving from Fredericksburg
into a realm beyond, he will see
another army approach,
only to realize it’s a herd
of lost sheep too tired to graze,
gathered only to bleat half-heartedly.

Ashley Sojin Kim

Ashley Sojin Kim

Ashley Sojin Kim's poems appear or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Raleigh Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Honors and awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination and fellowships from Kundiman and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and BA from Johns Hopkins.
Ashley Sojin Kim

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Author: Ashley Sojin Kim

Ashley Sojin Kim's poems appear or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Raleigh Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Honors and awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination and fellowships from Kundiman and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and BA from Johns Hopkins.