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Poetry in response to art and poetry with biblical allusions-Samson, the featured poem, is an example of both. Samson is also a personal and sensitive reflection on the meeting of a patient's needs.


We can read about the historical Samson in Judges 16:1-22. A Nazirite, dedicated to God from his mother's womb, Samson tells Delilah: "If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man" (vs. 17, NIV) (see also: Judges 13:1-24). Samson sleeps, Delilah sets up a shave, and the rest of the story describes the result of Samson's folly, Delilah's betrayal, and God's ultimate redemption.


Famous artists over the years, like 17th century artists Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, have rendered Sampson's story in oil on canvases. A more recent version by Florida artist Larry Moore, "Samson and Delilah" (, prompted Jan O'Dea to write this poem.


Jan is a nurse, who also is an artist. She saw in Moore's rendering of Samson "a simple visual metaphor for strength and looming loss" and then used this image as she reflected on the painting, on Scripture, and on her experience with a patient undergoing radiation treatment.


I encourage you to spend time reflecting and meditating on both art and the stories of the Bible. Both may lead you to think more about your nursing experiences and could prompt both prose and poetry. Ekphrasis (sometimes spelled ecphrasis) is a Greek term meaning description, derived from the prefix ek, meaning "out" and the verb phrazein meaning "to point out" or "to explain." Ekphrasis is a commentary on a visual work of art. The most frequently quoted earliest example of ekphrastic writing is Homer's Greek epic poem, The Iliad, where the shield of Achilles is described. Contemporary poets may describe a work of art in words that are basically descriptive of the art, but more often they find that a work of art can lead them beyond the actual painting or drawing or sculpture to an emotion that is evoked or to an experience that may have similar characteristics. Scripture can do this too, as we apply it to our lives through prayer, our actions, and through poems. Note other Old and New Testament biblical allusions in Jan's poems. For other definitions and examples of ekphrastic poetry, see


Visit an art museum, stand or sit before a painting or a sculpture, and reflect. Should a poem connecting nursing and art arise out of your heart, submit it to JCN.



By Jan O'Dea


My radiology patient, his hair gone thin,


made a hairpiece from a square of wool.


He pulled open the edges to loosen threads


with determined fingers, forced fibers


into a barely ordered toupee


that clings to his head on brambly legs.


He delivers an evening script


prepared for family and friends


and offers peppermints from a bedside sack,


squinting under a fringe of fabric bangs


as if looking at a world a long ways off.


When all have gone home I take on the task


of arranging this tangled nest


and sorting it out,


removing the day's lint, adjusting it


so a line drawn with a laundry marker


forms a part on one side.


He smiles from his face on the pillow


and winks a red-rimmed lashless eye


at me, his accomplice in this small deceit.


But I follow the others in silent acceptance


of his inconsequential untruths.


He is the mythic Samson,


and knows his Delilah.


Grace has led him to this odd crown of thorns,


and the rest of us can only be his sheep.


"Samson" first appeared in Common Threads (2016), the journal of the Ohio Poetry Association, OPA Press, and was adapted for JCN with the author's permission.


Jan O'Dea, RN, is an artist and writer from Columbus, Ohio. Her experience with patients prompts human condition storytelling, central to her poetry.


The author declares no conflict of interest.