The National Catholic Review

a man came in the door
to see a doctor about his breathing

his hands were wrinkled and tanned
i imagined them patting the head of a good dog

his wife wandered the house while he was here
confused
because he’s not there

she set the table for two
and then four and then ten

i took the man’s history, asked him what his allergies were

she took off the sheets from their bed
because she supposed
she left him there

the man coughed violently, i put oxygen under his nose

she cried
and moved the dresser in front of the window

the doctor wanted the man to stay
pneumonia had settled in his frail lungs

she hid in the closet
tasted her salty tears
held his scratchy flannel shirt to her cheek

the man smiled at me, patted my hand
he must go
he must go home to his wife
she is alone
she does not like to be alone

he took small steps to the door
he paused to cough
this i cannot stop

Jennifer Lynn Wills is an emergency room nurse in St. Louis. This poem was the first runner-up in this year’s Foley Poetry Contest.

Comments

mary jane mantzke | 7/3/2011 - 1:36am
Very moving....Thank you for sharing!

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