we drop our holiday mood
like a heavy sweater in the heat
when that call sends us reeling
as leukemia sucks us
into its bell jar, rings
our ears, jangles
We can’t lower that volume
but distraction is at hand–
tickets to Porgy and Bess—
though I forget it begins
with a knife fight.
My first day on the wards,
the senior resident handed me a white coat
emblazoned with the twin serpents of Asclepius,
and a stethoscope I proudly draped around my neck.
I thought I knew everything
about the dying patient assigned to me.
I listened studiously to John Doe’s lungs
filling rhythmically from a little machine
with a red diaphragm that pumped up and down
and made a hissing sound that reminded me
of the snakes embroidered on my collar.
I grew to
No power-down switch to arrest
That incessant activity of the mind and senses
Not even for our wedding anniversary
At the airport my eyes reflexively dart
From the cashier’s cheery smile to fix on her arm
Laid bare by her Dunkin’ Donuts uniform
And the glaring track-mark trail
As she carefully hands me my scalding hot coffee.
On board American Airlines my ears instinctively pinpoint
That paroxysmal brassy cough of the man in seat 20C
Why is it always the last call of the day,
Bag packed by the door, and sometimes I’ve even put my coat on,
And then I know that I have to make the call.
If I was smart, I’d schedule a visit, have the nurse set up a time
To have the patient drop by after the test is done,
If only I was smart!
But today it is too late for that, Friday night,
And a weekend of intolerable waiting
After my husband’s ocular stroke,
we wondered about the risk of a “real one.”
said the busy physician.
“What can we do?”
“Take a baby aspirin–
and live life to the fullest.”
We took this prescription to the pharmacist,
who gave us the aspirin
but added, “You’re on your own for the rest.”
if you happened to pass by room 2
in a medical practice somewhere uptown
some time in the spring
you would’ve heard
a medical student and her patient
giggling like toddlers
right in the middle of the cranial nerve exam
what a thing to hear
if only i could write that prescription
laughter po prn
no copay required
Meg Lindsay ~
After 10 days in a hospital
you regain the ability
to walk albeit with a cane so I put the commode
out in the hall as you are laughing a bit more,
the gleam back, but the chemo starts
and the next morning again pain
in your ribs and sternum
and now it burns
in your chest and again you
can’t make it up the stairs.
A spasm and your body folds into itself,
into the sign of the crab.
Rusted nearly through at the base
of their pale green throat,
the amaryllis buds are trying to bloom,
like a person with a tracheotomy
trying to say a poem.
I snip off the buds, leaking dark red
from their diseased wound, trimming
them to clean pale stubs to put in water.
Day to day, the largest furled bud
is loosening into white wrapped wings.
The other three buds are tinier versions
of each other like Russian nesting dolls.