The Closing of St. Aloysius Hospital
One by one the doctors let their leases
expire at this cathedral of the hurt.
Hallways spider like mazes. Addition
after addition. Sisters of Mercy
begging to the blessed, Please we need more room.
Who’d resist them? Their pure, white uniforms,
their rosary prayers said over victims
of The Great Flu Epidemic. Warm cloths
laid on children’s legs, on soldiers blinded
by numeral’d wars. Sirens were silenced.
I stand beside the Patron Saint of Children
behind a chained door never locked before.
We’re obsolete, Aloysius and I.
George Thomas, the first baby born here, died
of old age a decade ago. My heels
echo down the polished hall, and I whirl
to groans and cries: chorus of agony,
a choir of praise. Thousands left this launch
headed for worlds far away. I am left
to empty rooms, hear the last rites of ghosts.
My bones now lie in corners, specks of dust.
— Ann Thornfield-Long
Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (edited by Crawford and Smiley, 2013), has poetry appearing in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Silver Blade, Abyss & Apex, The Tennessee Magazine, Wordgathering, Liquid Imagination and other publications. She won the Patricia Boatner Fiction Award (Tennessee Mountain Writers, 2017) for her novel excerpt “The Crying Room” and was a finalist for her fiction in the 2017 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Spring Contest. She was nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net and Rhysling awards, and awarded a 2017 Weymouth residency. She edited and published a weekly newspaper for six years. She’s a retired nurse and medical first responder.
Editor’s Notes: Though not immediately apparent, the two 10-line verses are structured with decasyllabic lines, while the one-line central verse has 11 syllables, and is pivotal in the poem. An image of Creedmoor State Hospital’s Building 25 (founded in 1912) is overlaid with a rusted chain (Jooin) and a woman ghost (pngimg). The great influenza pandemic in 1918 killed over 50 million: https://www.cdc.gov/features/1918-flu-pandemic/index.html