In the Chemo Room

We who are turned away from the star

There’s no one here like the girl in Tarkovsky’s Stalker,
left awake in the clear morning after night’s watch.
Here, today, everyone is old, floating on feeble cheerfulness,
the relief or reprieve from their own watch,
in the hands now of nurses watched over by doctors,
nothing to do but sit back in the drip drip drip.
The young RN seems out of place here, cherubic, unreal.
She loves her job, she says, inserting a tube.
To which the reply: Job security. She reaches for,
Hopefully one day that will not be the case,
as if she wished to lose the job so loved.
But age is not really the determining factor.
It’s the impossibility of imagining anyone here moving a glass.
Whatever reserves exist remain hidden.
The visible world rules here: the dull look in the eye,
the sagging skin, row upon row of recliners.
It’s a waiting room for Hell
with a soundtrack of beeps
signaling air bubbles or completion
on repeat in the antiseptic room
locked out from that sound
long gone from the station.

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5 Responses to In the Chemo Room

  1. hedgewitch says:

    Hospitals are invested with a sort of Gothic horror for me–despite all that antiseptic white and the overly-clean, efficient etiquettes of cover the Reaper’s peeping bones–you capture that sense of ‘Hell’s waiting room’ totally here, but also the plaintive frailty of that human shell we all share whose betrayals are so profoundly shocking. I especially appreciate the subtle meter and inexorable structure, line after line getting shorter but also fuller, to match the hollow ring of that ‘drip, drip, drip,’ and the panic under the static, dull suspension of normal life. Always good to read you, Mark.

  2. M says:

    hospitals are where people go to perish (as it turns out, today’s final pen mentions that.) this pen captures that (as Hedge so eloquently notes). ~

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