Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Philip Terman: All Her Life

Philip Terman?—you don’t know me.

I’m Patricia Lamb, Palliative care nurse.

Do you know what that means? 


I work with patients who are dying. 

And I received an odd request. You know

when some are dying they get a last wish?

Well this woman’s last wish—

I hope you don’t mind this strange call—

is—all her life she’s written poetry.    


And now, her cancer has spread,  

and she always wanted to know—I hope

you don’t mind—from someone—


I got your number from the university—

I asked about someone who could judge

what was good poetry—


and they gave me your number—

if her poetry is good.

If she would have been a real poet.


We’ll be moving her into hospice soon. 

Might you mind looking at a few—

just a few—poems and tell her


if you think she was good enough?

That she would have made a good poet?

This morning she showed me a picture


she drew—many years ago, she said—

of a child—perhaps it was her?—writing

in the center of a round table


before a bouquet of flowers —roses I think—

That was what she’d have wanted

for the cover if she ever was able to have


a book of her own.  A book of her own.

I remember her saying and then her face flushed

a little, and her eyes looked away.


So will you look at them 

and let her know if she was a good poet?

It would mean so much to her.

Author’s note: This poem is based on an actual phone call I received from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Copyright 2017 Philip Terman.

3 comments on “Philip Terman: All Her Life

  1. Sue Oringel
    November 2, 2019

    So touching! And I can so relate. I had my first book of poetry accepted a year ago, at age 67, a month before surgery for bladder cancer. What a light in the darkness!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Janette Schafer
    November 2, 2019

    Raw and poignant rendering, thank you for capturing this moment. It absolutely gutted me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Saleh razzouk
    November 29, 2017

    The poem opens the debate.. Is literature a copy of the reality or it makes it up. The balance is not a function of literature, creativity is a radical action. So we are back to the same old new question, where does poetry end and where dos reality start from.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on November 29, 2017 by in Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , .

Enter your email address to follow Vox Populi and receive new posts by email.

Join 11,976 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 4,260,218 hits


%d bloggers like this: