It is the night shift, and most of Minneapolis does not know
that tonight a drunk man rolled onto the broken ice
and fell through the Mississippi.
He lies sheltered and warm in the morgue, unidentified.
Behind a dumpster by the Metrodome
a mother blows smoke up to the stars;
she flicks sparks with a lighter
and inside her pipe, a rock of crack glows
before it crumbles into ash
and is taken by the wind.
Sara H. Rahman
"Mr. Douglas?" I call out into the waiting room. A short, grey-haired man in his sixties staggers towards me, bracing his back with his hands. Despite his pain, he gives me a warm smile, which I return.
As I help him onto the exam-room table, he winces, squeezing my hand.
"I'm a medical student," I begin. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to examine you before Dr. Smith sees you."
He nods. "Go ahead, you can learn on me--just don't break my leg!"
The patient, age forty-nine, complained of abdominal pain. She was taking both slow- and fast-acting oxycodone to manage the pain, and she also took antidepressants and a sleeping aid. She'd come to the hospital several times in the past year, always with the same complaint. This time, not feeling well enough to drive, she'd come by taxi. The veins in her arms were small, threadlike and collapsed, like those of a ninety-year-old or a recreational drug user.
Her medical file was huge, with reports from her primary-care physician, from local hospitals and from the gastroenterology department of a highly regarded teaching hospital across the state.