Wednesday, January 17, 2007
The ED Sonnets: Room 5
I finally got some more sonnets written last night (when, par for the course, I should have been doing other work instead!). Lee, thanks for the nudge. Gary, thanks for the editing!
Room five’s for criticals, and has four beds.
The only room that’s scarier is 2,
though many patients here go home instead
of being brought upstairs, to ICU.
This corner’s where I first saw someone dead.
We’d prayed; her voice had vanished, but I knew
from her expression what she would have said
could she have spoken: “Help me. Help me! Do
you understand?” A dying cat once stared
at me like that. I held her hands and prayed;
she struggled less. But later when I went
to check on her, the patient wasn’t there:
a cold corpse lay, eyes open and afraid,
fixed face a mute mask of abandonment.
The patient smiles. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
I nod, try not to grimace; in this room
my ghosts do somersaults, and spreading gloom’s
not what I’m paid -- unpaid! -- for. (It’s almost
a year since that old lady died, and still
Bed One unnerves me. That’s why I’m relieved
no patient’s there right now.) “Then you’ll believe
this story. When my dearest friend fell ill,
I drove to see her, but before I’d hit
the halfway point, I felt her singing soul
blow through me like a mist, and knew she’d passed.
But oh, that tune was joyous! Hearing it,
I knew that she was happy, well, and whole.
I hum it now for healing, and hold fast.”
His skin’s fine parchment, yellowed, leathery.
The woman at the bedside weeps. “I’m not
his daughter, no. If he has family,
I’ve never seen them! Listen, there’s a lot
I’d tell them if I could! I’m just an aide:
I empty bedpans at the nursing home.
But this old guy -- he’s failing. I’m afraid
he’s dying, and I love him like my own.
That doesn’t happen often: maybe twice
in fifteen years I’ve felt this way about
a resident. I know the best advice
is not to get involved. Don’t care. Stay out
of other people’s lives -- but how could I
stand knowing he’d come here, alone, to die?”
“I’ve had ten heart attacks, three surgeries,
more Cath Lab visits than I care to count.
Tonight they want me in telemetry.
I shudder when I think of the amount
of rent I’ve paid here! But, you know, each day’s
a gift. That near-death thing? Been there, done that.
Three times -- although I never saw that blaze
of light they talk about, just darkness. What
a darkness! Soft as velvet, warm as skin,
pure peace. The strongest drugs they have can’t touch
that feeling. Maybe it’s like being in
the womb; I wouldn’t know. But there’s not much
that scares me now. Death doesn’t, anyway.
I wish they’d hurry with my dinner tray!”