Them

Jorge A. Lazareff, MD

University of California, Los Angeles, United States

Poet’s statement: I adhere to what W. S. Merwin once said, “poetry always begins and ends with listening.” And those represented in this poem are the ones who are rarely heard.

Them

The more there are, the less you like them.
All those rowdy and teary beings that circle your exhausted body
and pelt your mind with questions that do not have
a beginning or an end.
Questions sparked by the cousin, carried on by the sister,
all while the wife sobs and sobs.
And you wonder if she understood
that the husband has survived and you fear telling more
because the anonymous in-law behind your back
will ask you to explain again what you have already explained
and, even worse, he will flash at you
some doctorate on something that is not relevant to the matter
that has brought you and them here
at this mandatory moment of the day.

The less there are the more you need them.
To not have to lock your gaze with the dry eyes of the daughter
with the dry hands and the still body who can’t even shake
because she is the one who will have to call and explain
to everybody who is not there that the man will die.
And you wonder why they have not come in hordes
to bombard you with questions
about the health of a nice man with a bad disease;
how is it that friends and family have left this young woman
burdened with the task of being alone in the waiting room.

One, ten, or fifty—always a burgeoning crowd,
sprouting in the cafeterias,
in the corridors,
in the surgical waiting rooms
in every hospital
in the world.

We know everything there is to know about Barnard and Washkansky,
except—
what was Mrs. Washkansky’s name?
This is the fate
of those perennially ignored by the scribes of the Medical Canon,
of those whose lives capsized when the disease struck the heart, liver, or mind.
of spouses, children, parents, or lovers.

The teary, the rowdy, the anonymous.

 


JORGE A. LAZAREFF, MD is a physician at UCLA in the neurosurgery and pediatric departments.