Monday, January 01, 2007
The ED Sonnets: Room 4
Happy New Year! I wrote most of the first of these sonnets during the intermission of the chamber-music concert we went to last night; then I finished it, and wrote the other two, between ten and twelve after we got home. These seem to come quickly or not at all.
Gary didn't have any edits on this set, although as I was about to post them I discovered (to our mutual horror) that there was an eight-syllable line neither of us had caught. It's fixed now.
I hear the rhythmic hissing of the vent
before I see the bed. “She shouldn’t have
been intubated. Nothing curative
will come of this,” the nurse says. “If she’d meant
to be on life support, there wouldn’t be
a DNR! The nursing home misplaced
the file, and then they panicked when they faced
the code, called 911. Her family
has tough decisions now. I hate this stuff!”
I look down at the patient, pale and still,
so like a corpse already. Were that hiss
of air God’s voice, would I still hear, “Enough?"
The son arrives -- Lord, help us do your will --
and chokes, “She wouldn’t want to be like this.”
“My husband left me when I had the stroke
last year. He couldn’t stand to see me sick.
He’s not a bad man, really, but it broke
my heart to see him go. We’d been through thick
and thin for fourteen years. Oh, God, I miss
him more each morning! Will you help me pray?
Our baby’s only two, and I’m on dis-
ability. I don’t know how I’ll pay
the bills. My daughter’s such an angel: she’s
what keeps me going. Please, let’s pray.” We do.
We pray for strength and comfort, health and peace,
and afterwards the patient smiles, says, “You
were sent by God, a sign. I prayed for one,
and then you came, to prove I’m not alone.”
And here we have a Brady Bunch, or three:
the patient, wife and son, son’s wife, their tot,
an older child. They all sit quietly,
which must be why the loyal tribe has not
been asked to leave. They don’t want prayer, but ask
if dad can have a blanket, if the son
can have some water. Glad for simple tasks,
I cheerfully take all requests, and run
all errands: crayons for the little boy,
a plush toy for the baby (“you can take
that home”). Such simple service! I enjoy
the specificity, how crayons make
grace visible. I steel myself for codes,
but always welcome flight-attendant mode.