A COVID Death, July 2020

Greta Monter

Homecare Nurse

I didn’t like
this air.
It carried monsters
on its tongue.

I met you
in the driveway.
You wanted to shake my hand,
I had to say no.

I dressed in plastic armor,
bowed my head,
prayed to a god
I didn’t know
in a land
I didn’t recognize.

We walked up steps
to a living room,
and two parents
with straining hearts,
labored breathing
stretching away
from death.
The hum of oxygen tanks
an incongruent rhythm.

You asked me
to save them.

Outside a woman
left a pie on the doorstep.
Quiet tears,
the wringing of hands.
The woman with the pie
offered to wash your clothes
but couldn’t come
inside to help.

I said,
We can make
them comfortable.

I was the scientist,
you watched me
calculate morphine doses
that we prayed
would relieve
the lungs their grief.

A doctor told me
from a phone
to be safe.
A muffled, “I’m trying”
in return.

It started to rain.
You said
how could it be
that two weeks ago
Dad took the long way
to get the mail,
and climbed the stairs?

A daughter cried.
We carried bodies
into a bedroom.
Heavy, with pale fingers.
105 degrees.

The oxygen tanks
straining to keep up.
My skin opened up
under my mask
crying for me,
soaking my face,
my neck,
my breasts,
the crease of my abdomen
and my thighs.

Your parents died
hours apart
in July,
in an America we didn’t recognize.

Later the social worker
would tell me
we do what we can
to create comfort
in the middle of a war.

In between her words
the hum of a world
stretching away
from death.
And laborers in masks
and plastic gowns
over the fragile skin,

Author Bio

Greta Monter was born and lives in Holmes County, Ohio. She is a registered nurse who works in hospice and takes care of patients primarily in their private homes, but also in residential nursing facilities and hospitals. She manages their care within an interdisciplinary team and collaborates with social workers, chaplains, nursing assistants, and physicians to implement a plan of care for patients to promote comfort at the end of life. Greta works closely with patients and their families to provide medical care, emotional support, guidance and teaching. It is an intense and challenging job. She and her husband Mike have been married for 26 years and they have two daughters, one granddaughter, two son in laws, two dogs and an assortment of odd cats. Greta is 46 years old and although she has been writing poetry since elementary school, this is her first published poem.

More Stories