Care is a Four-Letter Verb

Care is a Four-Letter Verb was conceived when Molly O’Dell finally accepted the fact that care, in her beloved profession, had become a noun. With poems, a bit of prose and a prayer, Molly explores multiple dimensions of experiences she cares about in her own life. A reader will enter clear streams, intimate landscapes, and catch snippets from the upbringing of a physician, her medicine and how she became comfortable in her own skin.

Sample Poems by Molly O’Dell

“‘It’s important work,/ gathering wildness’ and I have long admired the poetry of Molly O’Dell for its careful attention to naming the natural world. In this, her second collection of writing, I am delighted to see the ways that Molly the poet and Molly the doctor are, of course, one and the same. One definition of ‘ferning,’ offered here is ‘a forage into the under story,’ and these poems and short prose pieces are fruitful forages into and beneath the many stories of a rich and observant life.”

-Pauletta Hansel, Cincinnati Poet Laureate, 2016-2018; Author of Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of Weatherford Award for best Appalachian Poetry

“Caution: Words ahead! Molly O’Dell’s Care is a Four-Letter Verb tingles with descriptions of nature, family, and her experience as a physician. Close to the bone, her words are always vibrant and tangible. The reader feels them physically, as shapes in the mouth and expressions of deeply felt emotion. A wondrous read and a tactile delight.”

-Bernice L. Hausman, Chair, Department of Humanities, Penn State College of Medicine

“Molly O’Dell sees the whole picture in Care Is a Four-Letter Word, a celebration of what matters, from ferns to fairness to family betrayal. This poetry collection broke my heart and put it back together like a velvet patchwork quilt – hand-stitched, slightly skewed, and beating fiercer than before. O’Dell’s poetry and prose is so elegant and fresh, I can’t wait to read what she sees next.”

– Beth Macy, author of Dopesick

“‘Pain is such a lonely place,’ O’Dell writes, but she brings compassion’s company and a surgeon’s keen eye to ease that loneliness. Blending the mini-essay with the narrative poem to yield a deeply observant world-building, O’Dell’s book starts with a child’s memory of receiving care in a rural hospital, and witnessing a black family being sent away without treatment. So begins a meditative memoir that, whether recalling the killing of an old mare, the creeping chauvinism of medical school, or the stitching up of a woman attacked with a broken whiskey bottle, uses each moment and memory, each betrayal and epiphany, to waken larger concerns, all in a lovely arc toward peace and even joy. ‘Why not expose them like edges of velvet? Comb the fray,’ she says, of scraps of old fabric – and so she does with her life, affirming with each page that ‘it’s discovery that keeps us well.'”

-Corrie Williamson, author of The River Where You Forgot my Name and Sweet Husk

Wear a Mask Jingle

Listen to Wear a Mask Jingle
View Wear a Mask Sheet Music

Off the Chart

Off the Chart

Off the Chart is Molly’s first published set of poems, a collection sparked by encounters with everyday patients in rural Virginia, where the James River cuts between the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge, just below Purgatory Mountain. These poems provide a glimpse of the practice of medicine before health systems reigned and document the foundation from which one ordinary girl learned, with her patients, the art of healing materializes when hearts converge, in a shared place and time, off the chart. They serve as a tribute to the places and people who transformed her along the way.

For more sample poems, check out the publisher at:

To order your copy, visit: