Explain the usage of "of us all" in the poem "To the doctor who treated the raped baby and felt such despair."

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem, the phrase in question, 'of us all,' can be found in the first line. It refers to those who are interested in the baby's fate and those who are thankful that there is a doctor in their midst who will tend to the brutalized infant.

Through the use of enjambment, the poet cleverly paints an accurate portrait of the dichotomies of life. While the process of living continues normally for most people, the existence of horrific aberrations in the fabric of life cannot be ignored. Enjambment is a poetic device that is used to highlight a sense of continuity in a poem; non-existent pauses at the end of each line lend an immediacy and urgency to the poem. As we read, each line melds into the next in a rhythmic symphony, reinforcing the notion that the aberrations of life will always co-exist with the mundane.

While the doctor works furiously to save the life of the baby, life must continue normally for other children. The phrase 'of us all' also suggests a sense of collaboration: concerned citizens must rely on the doctor to restore a measure of normalcy to the life of a brutalized infant while they strive to preserve security in the lives of other innocents. So, in a sense, all concerned parties must labor for the security of all.

And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust
that you would do what you did,
that you could do what you did.
We slept in trust that you lived.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"All of us" refers to every witness of the situation taking place. This includes the direct witnesses who are working with the doctor, as he "cleanses," "opiates," and "stitches," and those of us reading about what is happening. It refers to everyone who commiserates and shares in the frustration of what is taking place; the abysmal nature of it all. 

It also refers to society and its general view of doctors.

the rest of us, we all slept in trust 
that you would do what you did,
that you could do what you did

"All of us" generally trust that doctors will do their jobs; yet, we hardly ever wonder what exactly goes on in their hearts when they have to deal with situations of this nature. Often, we think of medical doctors as miracle workers who make a lot of money and may or may not possess a god complex. However, few realize the hard journey it takes to make it to the ranks of a physician, and even fewer come to realize that they too have emotions, systems of belief, limitations, peeves, and frustrations. This particular doctor was dealing with the ultimate abomination, and it is clear that he (or she) has been emotionally moved by this case. Meanwhile, "all of us" go on with our lives while still commiserating with the doctor and the baby; we mourn the fact that events like this can happen in our society.