After Reading Ethan Canin’s The Carnival Dog

Or First Impressions of My Own Death

At the Medicine grand rounds I watch
The pallbearers, expressionless faces in white coats
From the Lectern the dirge of medical liturgy
Reverberates in the otherwise still room

Alone aware, I sit studying their faces
Kineticless their bodies lie as they listen

When the liturgy is finished, the pallbearers
In long white coats with black identifying tags
And crusty faces of empty eyes raise their voices
Asking questions, posturing their positions

Some in honor of the homily, just heard
Others in honor to themselves but I, I kept

Waiting, waiting for Ezekiel’s vision
To somehow sweep the room alive.  Please.

I swore that day I’d never learn the liturgy of the dead,
I’d learn a poem or two instead

As if by such words a medical student
Could survive his own inevitable crossing of the River Styx.

James Wendt, M.D.

Fellow, Geriatric Medicine, UICOM-Chicago


Ezekiel’s Vision: From Ezekiel 36:29, The Valley of Dry Bones.  “…there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them…and breath entered them; they came to life…”