“Sonnet For A Nurse” by Elizabeth Tibbetts (published in Volume 53 Issue 4 of The Beloit Poetry Journal) manages to somehow deal with the issue of death, of the final decay of the fleshy portion of our being, without being overly sentimental, without being cliche, and without being depressing. At the final line, it almost begins to dip into the over-sentimental with “while I still have the chance,” and I think that I would rather have seen it end on a less mellodramatic note, but still, it is a little enough portion of the whole, that I can get over it. Other than that, there is a lot to enjoy in this poem. The association of washing with death helps to keep the poem from being too dark. The line “So I talk because I’m alive” is just perfect. The image of the connection between the living nurse who has only time between her and the bodies she is working with is sad, poignant, and yet not cloyingly sad–appropriately sad and yet holistically right.
There are also some nice sonics going on: The alliteration of slow,circles,skin and something, soothe, stretched, serene, stranger’s, the rhyme surrounding the quatrains, the assonance of croon/room and howl/mouth, etc. There is not so much so close together that it becomes a tongue twister, yet there is enough to be noticable in its pleasing sonic effect. There is a clear volta between the octet and the sextet, yet the one flows into the other without a jolt or break in the thought. All in all a model well worth emulating.