poems about sickness

2 posts

Poems of Sickness and Hope


At a time when the whole world seems sick, at a time when no one seems able to solve the puzzle and shout, “I’ve got it! The answer!”, at a time when various quacks are offering up various remedies for pandemics, it’s good to know that prayer is always there, stockpiled and plentiful.

Prayer, of course, has religious connotations, but the word is big-tent and willing to accommodate any plea to any higher force. Prayer can simply be a wish in hope’s clothing. Why not?

In the poem “Prayer,” Keetje Kuipers uses the second-person point of view with the pronoun “you.” Some readers object to this because “you” can mean an actual someone else and “you” can also mean a narrator addressing herself.

Me, I have no problem with it because, in my opinion, it works the way the reader wants it to work. That is, it gives the sense that a speaker may be referring to me personally, to everyone in the world, or to herself only. All good.

As for “Prayer,” it could be categorized as a sickness poem or a mother poem. But really, the two can be interpreted as one. Memories of mothers caring for us in childhood run strong and deep as a tap root — so strong and deep that many people, delirious on their deathbeds late in a long life, call out for their mothers, even if that mother has been dead for too many decades to recall.

Both sad and beautiful, that. But for now, let us pray:


Keetje Kuipers

Perhaps as a child you had the chicken pox
and your mother, to soothe you in your fever
or to help you fall asleep, came into your room
and read to you from some favorite book,
Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie,
a long story that she quietly took you through
until your eyes became magnets for your shuttering
lids and she saw your breathing go slow. And then
she read on, this time silently and to herself,
not because she didn’t know the story,
it seemed to her that there had never been a time
when she didn’t know this story—the young girl
and her benevolence, the young girl in her sod house—
but because she did not yet want to leave your side
though she knew there was nothing more
she could do for you. And you, not asleep but simply weak,
listened to her turn the pages, still feeling
the lamp warm against one cheek, knowing the shape
of the rocking chair’s shadow as it slid across
your chest. So that now, these many years later,
when you are clenched in the damp fist of a hospital bed,
or signing the papers that say you won’t love him anymore,
when you are bent at your son’s gravesite or haunted
by a war that makes you wake with the gun
cocked in your hand, you would like to believe
that such generosity comes from God, too,
who now, when you have the strength to ask, might begin
the story again, just as your mother would,
from the place where you have both left off.

Poems About Sickness


In the northeast, flu is running at a fevered-pitch with the highest rates we’ve seen in years. Luckily, I’m only dealing with the oh-so-common cold, but it’s slowed me down with its favored weapon, the sinus headache.

So instead of some deep, thoughtful, controversial, mind-provoking (all right, enough with the thesaurus) post, today I offer up a poem from my first collection, The Indifferent World.

It’s about the brothers common and cold when they stay too long, and you know what Mark Twain (or was it Ben Franklin? Or was it Confucius?) once said about guests: Like fish, they begin to stink after three days.


Head Cold
by Ken Craft

The head stands amazed,
harboring labyrinths of lead,

Minotaur of mucus
struggling to ford rivers

that forgot their flow.
Mythical horns scratch

glyphs across the sinal
Lascaux, itching,

yearning for escape
through impassable passages:

eyes branched in red
lightning, nose non-negotiable,

mouth agog and dug dry
with rhythmic rushes of air.


Whew. I am impressed with my allusions (Lascaux? Really?) and especially my vocabulary (I’m looking up “glyphs” again even as I type). But I get the idea. The head is occupied by some virus, and the virus is making itself feel at home, too, like some squatter acting with impunity (get the Oscar ready).

The question is, does writing about sickness make one feel better? It forces you to think about your malady–and all the evidence is at hand (or in the head) for material to write about, so I say yes. No, it’s not a cure, but it’s a mighty distractor, and distraction is a popular thing these days (see House comma White on the front pages).

Conclusion: If you’re feeling ill, write about it. Then sanitize the keyboard, won’t you? It’s only polite.



Unlike major publishing houses, small, independent publishers have no marketing budget to speak of, so they depend upon word-of-mouth enthusiasm among their readers. If you are a poetry reader, help keep the word-of-mouth buzz rolling for Lost Sherpa of Happiness by visiting Amazon for a copy today. According to Mark Twain (and Benjamin Franklin), it’s pretty damn good!