Pallium – a poem by Tom McNalley
On the hard cots of Kerala, in the homes
of the impoverished and the prosperous,
close by the rubber trees weeping
from the black angled lacerations
their tears falling into coconut husks,
the suffering and the dying lie expectant.
We press multiply into singular spaces, accept seats in chairs,
the wives or the sons, husbands or daughters bring us
the blister packs, the folded kraft-paper bags,
marked 1-0-1, 1-1-1-, 0-0-1 for the thrice-divided day.
Under the stoic gazes of the ancestors,
they tell us the stories their bodies have told them.
We attend with mind, heart to the songs of suffering,
nod, sway inside ourselves, rhythmic
to the shared song of impermanence.
The suffering and dying smile and reach out their hands,
we are for the moment all less alone,
we share the dance of last life before death.
Tom McNalley is a physiatrist and palliative care doctor currently completing his fellowship in pediatric palliative care at the University of California, San Francisco. He writes poetry and has published them in online journals. He visited Pallium India for the first time in February of 2020.