Saturday, December 30, 2006

The ED Sonnets: Hall Beds 1 and 3

Here are the next two sonnets. For those of you who don't hang out in hospitals, or who don't regularly find yourself glued to hospital TV shows, "ETOH on board" is paramedic-speak for "this patient's drunk." (ETOH is ethyl alcohol.)

The contrast between these may be a little too obvious and preachy; I had fun writing both of them, but they may need to be split up at some point.

Oh! But first! Today's mail brought Rachel Barenblat's chapbook of poems about chaplaincy, fittingly entitled chaplainbook. This is beautiful, piercing poetry, and you must all go buy Rachel's book without delay, and right after you do that, you must must must read Marcia's amazing Open Letter to a Family I've Never Met.

And then you can read my sonnets. And oh, yeah, I shouldn't have written these: I should have spent the time doing other work. Oh well. I'll pay for it later.

Now I have to go to sleep. G'night!


Hall Bed 1

They’ve brought her in on CareFlight: broken hip.
She’s eighty-eight, four hours from her home
by car, and no one’s with her. “I’m alone,”
she says. “Oh, I have neighbors, but this trip’s
too long for them. Please, sweetheart, will you pray
with me? The Lord’s Prayer, maybe? That would make
me happy. Jesus bless you, dear!” I take
her chilly hand in mine. We start to say
the prayer. Our Father . . . . When we reach forgive,
she says trespasses. I say sins. Her eyes
fly open. “You just changed God’s Holy Word!
That’s unforgivable!” I bite my cheek
to keep from laughing. “Ma’am, you realize
they’re both translations?” Icy, undeterred,
she glares. I might as well be speaking Greek.


Hall Bed 3

A homeless guy arrives by ambulance.
“ETOH on board,” the medic says,
and rolls his eyes. The nurse is even less
amused. “Stop cursing!” -- giving me a glance --
“This woman is our chaplain! Be polite!”
The patient, halfway through a graceful stream
of expletives, sits up and grins. “You seem
to be a lady, chaplain. Well, all right.
You pray?” “Of course.” He beams at me. “Me too!
Most every morning: ‘Hey there, Big Dude!’ Then
God answers: ‘Hey there, little dude!’ And when
I’ve fed the birds, well, me and God, we chew
the fat a while. He feeds me like a bird.”
I laugh, delighted. This one has the Word.


  1. Words that come to mind are neat and cute. I really like Hall Bed 3. He sounds like a fun guy. (g)


  2. Susan,

    Wonderful--i laughed at the second guy, too. I like them together--i think the two poems play off of each other well, without hitting you too hard over the head.

    Anyway, thanks for posting these. There were lessons in there that were good to hear.

  3. Thank you so much for the kind words. I'm really delighted that you're enjoying chaplainbook.

    The second of these sonnets made me smile a lot. "You seem to be a lady, chaplain." Hee!

    Being just out of the hospital myself, at this moment -- still not quite able to process the fact that I had a stroke; who has strokes, at 31? -- I'm increasingly glad that I had my chaplain year under my belt before this all happened. It would have been a lot scarier had I not already known that hospitals can be some of the holiest places around.

  4. Dr. Wannabe10:11 AM

    I have to say, the drunk homeless man has a far better grasp on what a good relationship with God is than many, many people.
    I love it.


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