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Editor's Comments on 'A Hollow Space'

 , November 11, 2016

Poet Sadaf Qureshi understands the strange intimacy of the hospital. In this poem he explores the juxtaposition of a hospital’s sterility with the messiness of the human emotions it witnesses daily. If hospital walls could talk, it’s not hard to imagine that they might say what Qureshi writes in “A Hollow Space.” The poem’s speaker invites us to re-imagine how we experience the buildings where we work every day. Can health care providers and worried family members also find healing in a hospital’s hushed stairwells?

Many of us are forced to rush from task to task without pausing to reflect on the emotional toll of illness for patients and families – and on ourselves. In this well-crafted poem Qureshi makes a space for such reflection by personifying the brick-and-mortar structure of the hospital. In “A Hollow Space” its very walls bathe the reader, hold her hand and her secrets, and put their metaphorical arms around her. The allure of the poem is in this imaginative creation of a “sanctuary.” If it is possible to garner emotional solace from a stairwell, then perhaps we can create similar quiet spaces for our “sorrows,” “pain,” “sins,” and “secrets” anywhere.

In fast-paced healthcare settings most providers aren’t given time and space for emotional processing. But in “A Hollow Space,” Qureshi seems to suggest that we can make it, seemingly from nothing. A few tears in a hospital stairwell or a quiet moment in a deserted hall might hold more solace than we expect.

Irène Mathieu