Everywhere, snarled harps of sheets unfurl to lick toenail, lip, eyelash.
White dragons of thin cotton thwack-snapping in the hands of orderlies
long acclimated to the wards’ fleshy humidor of blackening lilies.
The sick sweat, unsoothed. The flatlined, stripped of tubes and unstrung
like violins in reverse are removed from last-act bivouacs and shipped off
to some lower level only children think to ask about. Vinyl visitor chairs
petroglyphed with rumps twitch with the parting blips and sighs,
butterflies of final breath and blinking eyes. Someone has died.
Should there not be bells, a burning ghat, a violet-wreathed pyre in the hall?
Some means, some smoke signal, perhaps, of paging the saints
for handholding and chant? What for those bedside vigiliants who need
a break: slipping out to the smoking patio or nearest bar, passing that
family of six minus one shivering in the hushed slice of the hospital’s
single telephone booth? How about an omniscient clock furnishing us
with the ultimate second so no one dies longing for our return
from the cafeteria, the chapel, the waiting rooms packed with forgotten
toddlers confetti-ing copies of Time and HighLights to haystacks. Or the
restrooms ghosted with surgeons, chalky as Charon, fighting the sleep ferry.
Patients slowly ford the orange-carpeted rivers of hallway, leashed
to nacreous lamps of intravenous fluids. Still alive. Dazed. How they hate
the paintings – clowns, marigolds, kittens – sutured to the walls with steel stays.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 1.