Issue > Poetry
Abbie Kiefer

Abbie Kiefer

Abbie Kiefer’s work has appeared in december magazine, The Penn Review, Booth, Bodega, and elsewhere. She lives in New Hampshire. Find her online at abbiekieferpoet.com.

Revitalization Project: Mercy Hospital Nurses' Dormitory


When the nursing school closed,
there was no need for the dorm.
For the mattresses, the rust-
circled sinks, narrow closets
sheltering forgotten things—
a folded uniform, the filigreed
skeleton of a bat.
Everything hazy, feathered
with dust. Until Mercy,
after decades, made the dorm
a hotel, helpfully marketed
to the families of patients.
In the lobby, cookies
from the hospital's
kitchen. In every room,
bleached sheets, hospital-
cornered, and a beige phone
connected to the hospital
switchboard. In the basement,
a passageway to the hospital,
last artifact of the student nurses.
Convenient, says the desk clerk,
in the dark and the cold.
The tunnel terminates
in Mercy's old morgue
we learn from a housekeeper
with a cart of wet towels.
We walk that hollow 16 times—
four implacable days, four trips a day.
Each pass, we see it clearer.
The long tables in precise
parallel. The pale green desk
with the cup of cheap pens.
That's where they hung the gowns,
where they kept the gloves
and tape, the instruments sharp-
edged as a wail. They had two deep
sinks. They had three bright
lights. They had a drain; the floor
sloped softly to meet it.
This is where the cold chambers
lined the wall. This is how the
gurneys sounded: like a funnel cloud
dissolving, like the tender thud
of a family Bible.

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