Intensive Care

I’ve been noodling around with the idea for this poem for several months. I wrote a haibun about the ICU a while back, and this has grown out of some of those images. If you’re coming over from Poetry Thursday, I’d love comments and critiques on this piece!

Intensive Care

The goddamned machine is beeping
again, the rhythmic high-pitched whine insistently
announcing another catastrophe.
The curtains are drawn around bed two,
sheets of bleach separating the living
from the anaphylaxis of grief.

Teardrops trapped in plastic
tubing drip reluctantly into tired
vessels, sagging flesh,
hungry mouths. Prayers
are whispered into clenched hands,
asking for just one miracle,
one more day.

No one looks healthy under
fluorescent lighting, especially
the residents of this place, circadian
rhythms dictated by the change of shift
instead of the sun.
Limbs that were tanned and firm
are swollen and pasty, victims
of the hard work of healing.

The air is so still, unstirred
by human motion,
until the beeping starts again.
I wish to God someone would turn
that machine off.


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