Pre-Op Holding

Victor Dorantes in a hospital gown

Image via Wikipedia

NaPoWriMo Day 1

Submitted to Big Tent Poetry:  BTP offers 7 weekly prompts for the month of April to celebrate National Poetry Month. This poem is written to the prompt of undressing in a place other than a bedroom or bathroom.

Pre-Op Holding
A Rondeau

Have others died naked in this place?
I strip my clothing in disgrace
as cold consumes my body head-to-toe.
What will come next? They haven’t let me know.
I wait, imprisoned in a fear I cannot face.

No loving arms to hold me, no embrace
to sooth my shattered nerves, to dread, erase.
Have others died naked in this place?

Penetrating chill invades my inner space.
Ah, here’s the doc who’ll force me to erase
the thoughts that make me, me. Panic grows.
A needle prick and now the world slows.
Have others died naked in this place?

This is my first attempt at writing a Rondeau–a French poetic form that focuses on a rhyming scheme and a refrain. The rondeau is comprised of three stanzas:


a/a/b/refrain (the first word or phrase of the poem becomes the refrain)


The title “Pre-Op Holding” refers to a location where patients are prepared for surgery. For those of you lucky enough never to have experienced an operation, this is where they take away your clothes, garb you in an attractive hospital gown, make sure everything is in order for your procedure, start IV’s. The surgeon and anesthesiologist stop by and go over everything with you, and you may receive the first doses of meds that help you to drift into la-la land. Unlike in my poem, in this country they do explain everything to you, your loved one is allowed to wait with and you are accorded privacy.

25 thoughts on “Pre-Op Holding

  1. dragonkatet says:

    Wow, Victoria! I agree that this was a powerful post! I think the form was a good choice – the repetition of the main line really reinforced the feeling of fear that must come when in the same position. I’ve only had surgery twice in my life (thank goodness!) but never even thought about what would happen if it went wrong. (the ignorant bliss of youth, I’m sure). This seems like a tricky poetic form to tackle, but maybe I’ll get the courage to try it! 🙂 You did a great job with it.


  2. nan says:

    This is powerful and a great use of the form. The repetition comes round and round like a true worry.


  3. trisha says:

    thanks for sharing the state of mind of a person about to have an operation- well i can understand that fear.


  4. Jamie Dedes says:

    Been there more times than I like to think about. Excellent description. Great job on the poem. Aren’t you fab to be so open to new forms and do so well with them? Congratulations, Victoria. Wonderful … 🙂


  5. wayne says:

    nicely done …thanks for sharing this


  6. Bodhirose says:

    I haven’t yet tried that form but would like to. I like yours, Victoria. I’ve been in that scary pre-op place before–you described the discomfort so well.


  7. versebender says:

    Beautifully expressed…just an awful situation to find yourself in…hope I never have the occasion. The art of this is the way it captures the sadness. vb


  8. Lindsey says:

    I love writing rondeaus. A poem a day is a great challenge! I struggle with a poem a week . I’m lucky for one a month I don’t think should be in the trash.


  9. b_y says:

    I think that refrain works very nicely. It’s a place where the fear of death is valid–they even tell you it’s a possibility. And the loss of consciousness from the meds is a little deathlike. But also, there is a death of self in the impersonal routines. The rhyme and the light language counterbalance that in an interesting way.


  10. thingy says:

    I’ve been there and it is scary. What a chilling tale.


  11. Laurie Kolp says:

    Yes, you have captured the feelings of hopelessness very well. I love the rondeau, especially “Have others died naked in this place?”


  12. Mike Patrick says:

    A wonderful job with the form and the message. Now, about those attractive hospital gowns . . . .


  13. This was really sad, the image combined with the words made the reading much more heartfelt … The question “Have others died naked in this place?” it’s breaking the heart!


  14. pamela says:

    Victoria, this rondeau expresses the pre-op holding perfectly, it is a bit eerie. I have had a few operations myself and have felt exactly that way. It is a very lonely place, even when surrounded by hospital staff.



  15. Mr. Walker says:

    How brave of you to try a rondeau. I want to try my hand at some forms this month; thanks for inspiring me. You capture well the dread that comes before an operation. I like that the speaker is in “holding” but is not held by anyone.


  16. 1sojournal says:

    Are we not, today, each of us in somewhat the same circumstances? Putting ourselves in this place, exposing our forms and figures? Wondering some of these same questions as others read our words? I would definitely like to drift off and awaken when its all over, lol.



  17. Beautiful poem, Victoria. You know how to put the eek in emotion. I felt like I was about to die naked in that place! Blessings to you…


  18. Jingle says:

    perfect, much better than mine on the same forum,



  19. vivinfrance says:

    Victoria, we have chosen a similar theme today, but with such different results that I had to laugh at how our poetry reflects our personality: your poem takes the spiritual angle, and I am envious of your poetic skill. Mine reflects more the practical angle of your process notes!


  20. brenda w says:

    You touched on a universal here. The exposure and fear of patients is all too real. This piece strikes a nerve. Well constructed! ~Brenda


  21. souldipper says:

    Even though you are working with a new form, the compassion for those in these situations shines clearly.


  22. Tino11 says:

    I like that, very much and it made me shiver. I would hate to think that anyone died alone and naked.

    I know nothing of poetry and stanzas and haiku? I just write what comes into my head, play around a little with it and hey presto, if it works, great, if not, well, the thought was there anyway.

    Maybe I should try and read some theory about poetry to help improve, but I like rawness, an edge if possible. I am not sure structure is really me.


    • I hear what you’re saying, Tino. I prefer free form myself, but have found that sometimes when I’m stuck a structure helps to get me going and think out of the box. There is a lot of info on poetic forms on some blogs if you ever want to try it, but I think it’s important to respect your own creative preferences. Thanks for the comments on my poem. A big part of my life (as a nurse) was trying to make sure people were not alone when they were dying. And I didn’t mean to imply that many people die in surgical procedures but as one who’s been there a few too many times, you do consider the possibility.


      • vivinfrance says:

        The discipline of form is something that I find comforting and stimulating at the same time. I had to force myself to write in a looser way, when I started, but often revert to what almost amounts to doggerel!


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