Monday, July 07, 2008

On Dying in the Kings County ER

You slip from your wheelchair
to the floor, it's too dark outside
in the tiny windows, too late at
night, the sky all one dark pupil,
and the coffee machine
at the nurses' station is broken.  

An orderly kicks your foot, perhaps
she hears a sigh from somewhere
else, thinks it's you, believes you
are still breathing.

Dead, the smudged linolemn
is cool along your cheek.  You
don't mind it so much. The last six months,
the stroke made everything a pain
in the ass; your fingers refused
to unpeel from pencils,
the smirk in the garbageman's eye
made you throw books, and your children
kept switching their names.

Now you have no name.  Your fingers
and toes get colder, a peculiar heaviness
fixes you to the floor but your muscles
no longer ache, your bowels no longer
sing their bombastic, unhappy tune.

Somewhere, a TV high on a wall
is playing "Cheers" and you finally
feel your skin brightening, lifting
to the tempo of the laugh track.

A man with a dark hat is touching
your chair, a nurse is knelt at your
wrist, but you are hot now, feeling
the sun as you did that day

at the beach in Coney Island:
a new bikini, a new strip of skin
burning at the top of your hips
but you were beautiful and you
knew it, wringing your wet hair
into some smiling boy's face, laughing
and shrieking as he grabbed your arm, and

it's that kind of burning now, that kind of
joy, as the room glows beneath you and
more people gather, and more attention
comes, all too late to tie you down.


I have a feeling this is going to be rewritten a LOT, but I haven't posted even a draft in forever.


Maggie May said...

this reminds me so much of my grandparents assisted living home...a hard place to go, harder to stay.

tearful dishwasher said...

i like this poem a great deal. Tied down to concrete images and plain language, it still yearns for flight and achieves it.

Of course, I like poems about dying.

But really it is a question of does the poem stand on its own two legs and this does.

thanks for the read.



Valerie Loveland said...

I see I'm not the only one who has been thinking a lot about this story. I like this poem.

When I was reading the first stanza, I skipped the line about the coffee machine and read it as "the nurses' station is broken."

I think "you were beautiful and you
knew it" is not necessary because the actions around that line show this.

Also I like the stanza about Cheers, but I think it kind of brings you out of the poem a bit.

Nice to see you posting! I like this poem a lot.

Christine said...

Thanks, Maggie. I've worked in a place a little like this. Nightmare.

Dishwasher! Thanks for your comment. I so admire your writing -- it means a lot.

Valerie -- you are very right about the beautiful line. I cut in the next draft. Thanks.