Saturday, May 12, 2007

The ED Sonnets: Code, CCU Waiting Room, Chapel II

Here's the latest set. Thirty-three down, twelve to go. Those are nice scriptural numbers, eh?

To get the full effect of these, you'll need to read (or reread) some of the earlier ones: Emergency Family Trauma Consult Room and Room 2, which you'll find here, and Chapel I.

This set came out oddly: for one thing, I make a point of never using the phrase "God's will" with patients or family unless they've done so first (and then I tell them it's okay to be angry). But the kind of thing I would say -- praying for people to find the strength to get through what they don't understand -- fits much less well into a sonnet, so that language became shorthand.

I'd be grateful for comments about whether these work, and how to make them work if they don't. I'm afraid they may be too hokey. Thanks!



It comes through on the overhead: “Code Blue,
Room 557.” Every chaplain in
the building goes to codes, but I’m alone
tonight, the cavalry. That’s CCU.
I take the elevator with the team
from the ED. Nobody runs, except
on TV shows. I know what to expect:
the swarm of staff, equipment, feet, the same
crazed scene I saw downstairs. I wait outside,
remembering. He went to CCU.
Please, please be someone else.
As if on cue,
a nurse says, “In the lounge -- his wife’s beside
herself -- could you -- ” “Of course.” In here I’m just
a nuisance. Please be someone else. She must.


CCU Waiting Room

She’s not. She’s pacing. “You again! You get
around this place!” She tries to laugh. She can’t.
I swallow. “I’m so sorry. Do you want
me here?” “Of course. Have they --” “No news as yet.”
I speak too quickly. No news isn’t good.
She shakes her head. “I don’t know how to pray
right now. Downstairs, I knew just what to say:
let him survive. It worked; God understood.
But now I’m here again. I can’t go through
this anymore!” “We pray God’s will be done,”
I tell her sadly, “maybe most when we
don’t know our own.” “It’s always done.” “That’s true;
we pray for acc -- ” “Oh, God, the doctor’s come!”
He clears his throat; his voice cracks anyway.


Chapel II

She didn’t want me there. Downstairs, she clung,
but now she’s furious at God, and I’m
God’s representative, who couldn’t climb
up far enough to reach him, whose thick tongue
could form no pleading powerful enough
to ward off death. Let us accept your will,
acknowledging that every Lazarus
must die again at last. It’s obvious:
all miracles are temporary till
the final Easter. Help us persevere
through our most dreadful Fridays. Let us trust
in resurrection. Comfort us in pain.

I kneel -- most hollow reed -- and pray, and hear
an echo: Ash to ashes, dust to dust.
Not news. Get up: best get to work again.


  1. Very moving Susan! Poor wife. It's hard but I'm glad you were there for her. I don't think they're hokey. It's the plain and simple story that often hits the hardest.


  2. These are as far as I'm going today. As the reviewer of The Fate of Mice said, it's better to read these a little at a time.

    These deserve as wide an audience as possible, I think.


  3. Thanks, Lee and Martin!

    Martin: I'm hoping to put together a chapbook when I have them all done. I've already found out who'd have to look at them at the hospital, to make sure they're HIPAA-compliant.

    Eight more to go!

  4. Your insights, as Lee assured me, whether you put them in sonnet form or not, are very impressive. The Count is old and has faced death a number of times. I was also, fortunate enough to be with my father and mother when they died and just sit there with them for a while. The Chaplain serves more to comfort the relatives than the one lying in the bed, who is generally unable or lacking in the proper words of assurance to give the loved ones.. This has been my experience...several times. Yours is no rickety contrivance. Yours is empathy and love. My best. Count Sneaky


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