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Wednesday, April 01, 2020


by Terri Kirby Erickson

Alameda Health System nurses, doctors, and workers protest the lack of personal protective equipment available in Oakland, California, on March 26, 2020. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via Vox

A doctor in Italy who described his concerns in a recent television interview about how the shortages of medical supplies meant he had to treat patients with coronavirus without wearing gloves, has died from the illness. Marcello Natali, 57, from Codogno, in the northern province of Lombardy, had also sounded the alarm over the number of doctors who were getting infected, during an interview with Euronews before he tested positive. He told the channel bluntly that he was not able to work with gloves because "they have run out." —Newsweek, March 19, 2020

There is no linear time in the hereafter. Angels do every-
thing at once. They see the last pair of latex gloves drop
to a hospital floor in slow motion, the look of fear on the
face of the gloveless doctor who, in the blink of a human
eye, goes on caring for patients. They can watch people
being brave (since fear is the birthplace of bravery) and
the people who are sick, some of them dying. But those
who pass away during the doctor’s glove-free hours feel
the touch of warm skin on his or her forehead when they
take their final breaths. This is the unselfish mercy that
humans are capable of, which makes the angels marvel.
Divine creatures respect mortality and all that it entails.
And from every angel’s non-linear, eternal perspective,
a doctor can do his job and at the exact same time, enter
the great mystery of his own dying. Angels may ooh and
ahh over this lone human being’s merciful acts as well as
mercy shown around the world, and still catch his soul the
instant it leaves his body. One whispers words of solace.
Yet another sings the doctor’s favorite aria, Puccini’s “O
Mio Babbino Caro,” as they carry him to the place where
there is no grief or sorrow—and no need for gloves at all.

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of five full-length collections of poetry, including Becoming the Blue Heron (Press 53). Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Poet’s Market, The Sun, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and many more. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.