Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MAN AND WOMAN GO THROUGH THE CANCER WARD, by GOTTFRIED BENN



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MAN AND WOMAN GO THROUGH THE CANCER WARD, by            
First Line: The man: here in these rows are wombs that have decayed
Last Line: Burns out. And sap prepares to flow. Earth calls.—
Subject(s): Cancer (Disease)


The man:
Here in these rows are wombs that have decayed,
and in this row are breasts that have decayed.
Bed beside stinking bed. Hourly the sisters change.

Come, quietly lift up this coverlet.
Look, this great mass of fat and ugly humours
was once some man's delight,
was ecstasy and home.

Come, look at the shrewd scars upon this breast.
Do you feel the rosary of small soft knots?
Touch it, no fear. The yielding flesh is numbed.

Here's one who bleeds as though from thirty bodies.
No one has so much blood.—
This one was cut:
they took a child out of her cancerous womb.

They let them sleep. All day, all night.—They tell
The newcomers: here sleep will make you well.—But Sundays
one rouses them a bit for visitors.—

They take a little nourishment. Their backs
are sore. You see the flies. Occasionally
the sisters wash them. As one washes benches.—

Here the grave rises up about each bed.
And flesh is levelled down to earth. The fire
burns out. And sap prepares to flow. Earth calls.—





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