Anne Champion

Florence Nightingale: The Lady With A Lamp

Isn’t it strange that angels are female, crowned regal by halos of gold,
swinging lamps to peel the darkness away

from wounded men? You would think something so powerful must be male,
but I’ve seen what men are made of,

scooped out and sawed off, and I tell you, they’re nothing but matter,
disposable, easily lost, just like us.

They litter our rooms with uniforms and weapons that call them back
into my memory.

Harold asked me to kiss his forehead before bed at night.
Thomas cried for his mother.

Henry said I was his angel but he didn’t know the blade was life.
Every day, the news is the same:

I’m losing another man I barely know. It’s not the men proposing
marriage, not my father’s stern commands

that I fall in line with my lot that haunt me. It’s the men I can’t save.
Nurses aren’t a flock of angels—

they’re herded power, a way to say, See what I can create out of ruined parts.
I watch my shadow drag at my heels,

a sleepless woman; the wounded men see something more.
My body, whirling in their hallucinations

of more life, can’t be seduced. Women, understand this glowing
thing I can make of you—

someday, you’ll wake to a house so off season, you’ll think someone died
and you’ll wish you knew

how to heal. Don’t hang your lamp outside that door; no light illuminates
the gray and boarded houses.

 

Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, forthcoming). Her work appears in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany Magazine, The Pinch, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient. She currently teaches writing and literature in Boston, MA.

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