For the past five years, Martha Kreiner, a registered nurse and a poet, has tended to the medical needs of people living on Seattle's streets through the Healthcare for the Homeless network. The death of a patient lead Kreiner to write an elegy for him, in which she re-imagines his final moments:
I wish him much moss furring
the edge of the sidewalk his head landed on
for the last time, last week. I wish him a mattress
of newly chipped bark to soften the slab
of dirt beneath the shrubs he stumbled in. I wish
all the landmarks he needs, he has:
(Excerpted from "He Wanted to Die Anywhere But the Street.")
Kreiner describes the poem to KUOW's Elizabeth Austen as a chance for "a do-over. It's a really giant do-over, and that's often what I'm up to, because I just can't stand how it actually is, or how it actually was."
She explains what writing poems offer in the face of loss and powerlessness: "The only response I can have that's adequate is an imaginative one. Poetry is helping me in a way that nothing else can. I think art and poetry has more room in it than I personally do. It's a wider container."
Kreiner worked on the poem during her fellowship with the Jack Straw Writers Program. Her poems have appeared in Floating Bridge Review, ILK Journal, and Hubbub. She earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Michigan State University.