Elmhurst, O Elmhurst

By Melissa A. Chappell

(Elmhurst, the only public hospital in New York City was founded to serve the poor in 1832. It serves Western Queens County.)

Elmhurst, O Elmhurst,
I did not know you in your mothering shift
of glass and mortar.
I ticked off your name in my mind
as you caught my ear on the morning radio:
This, as I authored my own survival.
Perhaps I may be one of the remnant.
Perhaps this wasting bane
may steal away on some wing
of the breeze.
But, no, Corona prefers to steal the air
from the ravaged world;
so that one day I saw on my 52 in. screen,
with an almost snake like refrigerated truck,
parked outside its venerable walls,
the vile work of Corona
by the shining light of day;
so that, the wretched of God gathered at the hem
of her weeping garments.
The poor and the dead,
thronging around her.
She has mothered them for generations,
now they lie dead in the emergency room,
with none to kiss their brow.
She weeps over those who have waited so long
to shelter within her.
Yet she rejoices in those who leave her,
walking from her doors.
Elmhurst, O Elmhurst, I did not know you
in your mothering shift
of glass and mortar.
Yet now, now, I catch the genesis
of the most improbable invitation
on a wind that comes
out of the surly darkness:
“Breathe, breathe.
I will keep your going out
and your coming in.”
This, for the poor who gather around
the shabby fringes of the earth.
This, for you, O Elmhurst,
form this time on,
and forevermore.

Melissa A. Chappell is a native of South Carolina, USA. She contentedly resides on land that has been in her family for over 130 years. She has a BA in the Theory of Music and a Master of Divinity degree. Besides writing, she plays several instruments, including the lute. Music and the land are her primary inspirations for her poetry. She has had two chapbooks published: Rivers and Relics (Desert Willow Press)

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