In my twenties, when something unexpected occurred, I’d often respond by writing a poem—I even had a few published. Life intervened, and I never really pursued the craft. But the emotions that have arisen during the pandemic have caused me to revisit this medium.

There have been a million moments prompting a wide range of feelings, from joy to disdain. But no single image has lingered longer in my head than that of a front-line nurse during the peak of the crisis in New York City adorned in a garbage bag because of inadequate PPE. Below, in verse, I seek to uncover why this image has had such a lasting impact.


in a season so laden with stimuli
Homebound, I gaze out windows, at TV screens
by your image
An American split screen in a single frame
Brave beyond measure
You advance into the fray of unknowness
when it will end, whether you are infected
with only your heart as armor
Day after day, cradling those in your care
Inspiring countless others
US at our very best.
seeing you there
Unprotected as others are
in Italy, Spain, China
Covered only in a garbage bag
rescued from a trash heap of Promises
Inadequate preparation
Insufficient mindfulness
US at our very worst.
Haunted by your courage
Humbled by my own failure
to even hold a candle to your sacrifice

One thought on “Nurse in a Garbage Bag

  1. Bob: Your poem and caring come through very well. I, too, am a poet now and words for the awful and sad happenings during this pandemic have escaped me. Thank you for your words and thoughts behind them.
    The StillSpeaking Writers Daily Devotionals have helped too.

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