Friday, December 22, 2006
The ED Sonnets: Room 3
The first of these is an odd hybrid of Elizabethan and Petrarchan, but I only realized that when it was finished, and I liked it too much to change it.
Her hair’s a tangled mass, spun fine and white
-- bird’s nest or halo -- soft and disarrayed.
She’s bird-thin, too, and like a bird, afraid
of sudden noise, new people. “It’s all right,”
I tell her. “I’m the chaplain. Do you need
a tissue?” She’s begun to weep. I find
a Kleenex, wipe her face. They’ve had to bind
her to the bed: dementia. Were she freed,
she’d wander, but she’s no less lost with us.
“Her husband dumped her here,” the nurse explains.
Head cocked, the patient peers at me and strains
against the bonds. Her eyes are luminous,
pale blue. She speaks now. “Mama?” That faint cry
grows louder, so I sing a lullaby.
He’s hooked to leads, blood pressure monitor,
IVs: a maze of tubes. “My three kids died
last year: a car crash. I’ve been crucified,
you know? I can’t tell what I’m living for.
My wife, I guess. Each day’s a funeral
at our house. Now I need heart surgery.”
I squeeze his hand. “That kind of tragedy
would flatten anyone.” Original!
Just what he needs: cliches. “What helps you get
up every day?” “My faith. This agony’s
God’s gift to make me grateful they’re not here,
where so much hurts.” I blink. My eyes are wet.
We’re trained to deal with bad theology:
It’s theirs. They need it. Do not interfere.
He glares at me the moment I appear.
“So you’re the chaplain? Lady, I’ve no use
for your profession.” What, you’ve been abused
by English teachers? “That’s okay. I’m here
to offer any help I can: some talk
to pass the time, a blanket?” “Yeah, you’ll plot
to get me into church! No thanks. I’ve got
more sense than that.” I smile and start to walk
away: I don’t get paid enough to deal
with insults. “Hey! So what makes you believe?”
I turn. “That isn’t anything I can
explain with formulas. My faith is real
but complicated.” Now he looks relieved:
“It’s hogwash even you don’t understand!”