Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

New Year’s Eve, Old Presbyterian Hospital

Jacob Appel
New York, New York, United States


King’s Handbook of New York City, 1893. Public Domain.

The gift shop is closed. Only a graveyard
Skeleton crew in the pharmacy, a solitary
Cleaner orbiting a mop across the skyway.
Below lights blinking red green red through
Dark and frigid silence. One more year.

One more night too: cachectic, edematous,
Distended — ammonia levels rising, uremia
Lurking, choking up coffee grounds, bile.
Unlike the house staff in stunted white coats,
I have volunteered for duty. One more year.

One more night for my colleagues to enjoy
Their families, to tend their annual rituals.
How assuring it must be, almost. While I linger
Alone in the austere chapel — not to pray, no,
Merely to take my own stock. One more year.

In the warrens and cellars beneath the pews,
Hidden from stained glass and veined marble
Rest catacombs of iron lungs, Blakemore tubes,
Harrington rods that will never uncurl a spine.
Also ghosts — so many now. One more year.

How they haunt: the ones who died because
We knew so little then, and those because we
Knew so much — and that nine-year-old girl
I lost as an intern and still don’t know why.
She is with me now. Again. One more year.



JACOB M. APPEL is the author of three literary novels, seven short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery and a thriller. His first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award and was published by Cargo. His short fiction collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014. He is also the author of more than two hundred published short stories. Jacob currently teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and serves as an attending physician at Mount Sinai Hospital. More at www.jacobmappel.com


Winter 2019  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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