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Even Now

Two decades ago, during my first week
as an X-ray tech, I watched a boy die.
He was, thankfully, not a boy I knew
or loved but one I’d gone to X-ray.
Jake was seven, pale and sweating
in that huge hospital bed,
wearing Spiderman underwear
an IV in each arm.
After 15 minutes of CPR,
the lead pediatrician said
there was nothing else we could do.

As I pushed my portable X-ray
machine past the parents standing
hand in hand in the waiting room
they turned to me, their eyes
full of hope, as if I were the one
who would bring them the news
they needed, but I wasn’t, so I turned
away, made it to the elevator
before I heard the mother scream,
a sound, even now, I can still hear.

Call for Entries

Pulse Writing Contest

"On Being Different"

Steve Cushman is an X-ray technologist and currently works at Cone Health in Greensboro, NC. His first full-length poetry collection, How Birds Fly, won the 2018 Lena Shull Book Award.

About the Poem

“I’ve been an X-ray tech and writer for more than twenty-five years now. Much of my writing reflects my time in hospitals, and quite often it is only through the act of writing that I recall certain events and experiences. Of course, this was a memorable event and one that I have thought about more as my own son has grown up and is about to graduate from high school. A gift these parents were denied.”


10 thoughts on “Even Now”

  1. Thanks to each and every one of you for your kind comments about my poem. Brings me joy to know this poem touched you in some way. We write and write and write, trying to connect with the world and our experiences, and from the sounds of it many you have had similar experiences. Keep writing and reflecting, Friends!

  2. Steve…what an outstanding poem. Having been a paramedic, I can relate…but could never put into words as you can. Well done sir

  3. Esther Pottoore

    I still hear the screams—! The feeling of helplessness, the inability of offering hope to a wounded human—

  4. Kimberly Rapczak

    I remember vividly my first death as a student chaplain. I was on call and got paged to the ED. It was “only” an 85 year old man with a heart attack. It freaked me out to be with his weeping family. After I went back upstairs I called my own pastor and cried because I was so upset.

  5. Steve – you have captured this scene with such an economy of words, which only makes the mother’s scream resound more loudly through time. As as young dietitian working in a children’s hospital, I recall a young boy with brain cancer. He would smile at me through his steroid enhanced face as I offered him and his dedicated parents a serving of pudding or juice, the tools of my trade. His cancer was fatal, although I did not know it at the time, until one day, no pudding was served. Thank you for allowing me to revisit his memory.

  6. julia mckechnie

    Steve, thank you for sharing your poem. It reminds me of my experiences of the events I witnessed as a nurse 40 years ago.

  7. Judith Kunisch

    Steve – 53 years ago, as a student nurse, I cared for a 14 year old boy,, Teddy Fxxx, who died from a brain tumor. I will never forget Teddy and never forget facing death as an 19 year old girl caring for this younger teen. It was, and still is, a memorable event in my development as a care giver and more importantly, as a human being.

  8. An amazing poem, you brought memories of hearing mother’s scream back so vividly.
    God bless you for the compassionate work you perform. Thank you for sharing your poems.

  9. Steve this a beautiful poem, so many intense and stark images, so devastating. It is a beautiful title to the poem as well…even now….I completely resonate with this work.

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