Hello there, Leslie,
I had a distant memory of this poem (from the long-ago days when I
used to date a poet), and with a bit of rooting around in both my
memory and a few databases, I came up with it...it's a 1963 poem
titled Infirmary, by Theodore Roethke.
The poem is copyright, of course, but the last line of the poem is:
HOW BODY SPIRIT SLOWLY DOES UNWIND
UNTIL WE ARE PURE SPIRIT AT THE END
You can find the full text in:
THE NEW YORKER BOOK OF POEMS
There is a reference to the poem's recitation in the episode of the
West Wing entitled "Faith Based Initiative", here:
In "Faith Based Initiative", Bartlet recites the following: "How body
from spirit does slowly unwind until we are pure spirit at the end."
What do we know about where that might have come from?
This was used in Al Gore's Memorial for Senator Albert Gore Senior
described as "in the words of the poet". But no poet was named.
We asked "Anyone know where he might have gotten it from or what the
original was?" and Celina Rodriguez-Mendieta emailed us that the poet
was Theodore Roethke and "The poem is 'Infirmity', published in 1964"
after Roethke's death in 1963. "Infirmity" is listed in The Table of
Contents of The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke
Hope that does the trick...let me know if you need any additional information.
search strategy: Google search on: [ slowly unwind roethke ]