I’ve had my own hospital experiences, but oddly enough I wrote this based on the second-hand books for sale in the hospital I went to that housed the Student Health Centre at UBC. I was thinking about the traces of their existence people leave on things that we view as purely material.
When a patient dies
They leave their books
Like petty debts
Sitting softback shuffling in the drawers
While nurses move, arch and serious,
Remove every trace,
Reduce Reuse Recycle
Sterilise dust, motion and memory.
The relatives, hands on shoulders,
Exchange grief by diffusion,
Collect clothes and eyeglasses
Smudged with the trace of a fingerprint
While the air conditioner howls like a storm wind.
And the books sit shuffling in the drawers,
Pressed closed and silent
Stacked tightly in rows like a crypt,
So another can die between their pages.