Stepping off the bus, the first faces
I see are the same every February.
Hard construction hats, yellow vests
flashing, grit etched upon their faces.
Daylight Savings ensures that these
are the last sights of light before
entering sterile linoleum floors.
When he enters my clinic, I do a
double take. Who would have guessed
that I would remember his face without
the construction uniform? We talk about
his shortness of breath, cough with
yellow sputum, worsening fatigue.
These mornings, I search for him
between chilled breaths. Sometimes,
he is working to expand the new
bridge. Other times, he is chatting
with friends, taking a smoke.
In two weeks, his imaging shows
a peripheral mass that we biopsy
In another two weeks, I will
refer him to oncology. In time,
I no longer search for him, the
cranes move on elsewhere,
and each day is a little longer.
6 thoughts on “Chilled Breaths”
the turn at the end is very moving.
Before his illness, you were part of the faceless throng passing his work site. Before his appointment, he was one of many guys in a hard hat on a work site. A cough, shortness of breath, and worlds collide. Suddenly, you’re his doctor, he’s your patient, and you’re vitally important to each other.
This is a reminder that when we are off work walking in the crowd, we’re just a human and none of those humans we pass are just a human.
Those intensely human moments. Great poem!
I like this poem, the contrasts between the strong working man and his sickness. The closing stroph brings this together so well with a kick in the gut.
I love the perspective of this poem – the juxtaposition of construction of the hospital and the medical worker inside. The construction worker soon to become a patient. The doctor looking for him. Well done.