Mercy – Contest Winner

by Susan Okie

And what about that winter night in Hartford
when a mother brought two kids
to the hospital, afraid she’d hurt them?
Something ticked her off, whatever the resident
said just made her madder:
Give me my kids I don’t need this
I can take care of them.

A nurse shoulders us
out of the way, puts her arm around her,
walks her down the hall, speaking
softly: You must be so tired you’ve done
such a good job I know you haven’t slept
go home now get a night’s rest your kids
are fine they’ll be here when you wake up.

The woman cries and talks to her, leaves
alone. I think, wow, that’s how it’s done.
Yesterday, I was teaching some med students
about reporting child abuse and I wondered
what happened to that mother, did the system
show her mercy or did she lose those kids
for asking a hospital for help?


Susan Okie is a physician (trained in family medicine) who spent most of her career as a medical reporter and editor with The Washington Post. She has also been a contributing editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. In the last 15 years she’s devoted an increasing amount of time to writing poetry, and received an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College in January, 2014. Her work has appeared in The Bellevue Literary Review, The Gettysburg Review, JAMA, Passager, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and is forthcoming in Gargoyle. She is married to Walter Weiss, a doctor and former med school classmate, and has two grown sons. She and her husband volunteer at a safety net clinic in Montgomery County, Md., and teach part-time as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University School of Medicine.



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