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Shifts


ISSUE:  Winter 2003

By 3 AM our unit’s beyond coming or going, no
fluorescence, only bedside lamps and a voiceless
blue. It’s an ICU sky, techs returning like comets,
you with your pressure falling into a range where
stars form so quickly we can’t keep up with
the numbers.

Your nurse bandaged wet spots where skin
wouldn’t hold. Your planets wept like blisters,
your heaven so swollen it had to give.
And as we sopped, you soaked through the world
we’d known, no family holding you down,
no orbiting lover.

    We knew someone was talking
below, of what a body shouldn’t endure, how it might
linger in what has to be pain, that system.
    But you couldn’t hear them, could you?
Not as your ankles turned to air, not as we dialed
the only number you left us, your voice answering
like so many dead keep doing these nights, your machine
implying you’d heard us all along.
       Or so we took it

when you said who you were, your name and not
your number. You simply thanked us for the call.
Nothing, no requests, just that empty heaven
we refused to fill, your machine running
as the sky rose, your bandages pulled, your heaven
quiet as our hands passed over.

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