At coffee-flecked booths
And down corridors, wending
A way through the staccato chatter,
We guzzle down the details:
|“empty waiting room” by Julep67. 2006. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Oh let me tell you,
One fisherman to another,
Of fingers turned tassel by a firecracker,
Soiled plastic and muffled screams leaking
Out a hermetic room that an
Implacable observer lords over.
We’re in on a dirty game,
As if our lives have yielded
A certain blandness that begs
A frame of maudlin bedding.
But these moments between.
The things left unsaid.
Indulge me, if you will.
Let’s take a turn left where
The concrete overtakes the tile sheen.
The measure of tears I see in these elevators.
Silent salt streaks as we careen and
Cloister in the recesses until
We passengers are disgorged
And the bulwarks are shored up again.
I’m learning the obvious:
Ambling by the river after hours,
I might be struck dumb at the vision
Of a patient peeking out from a stale gurney,
Basking in the same sight through a glass.
Am I a child who thinks that
If I shut my eyes, then perhaps
These apparitions will be whisked away?
When I walk by the hospital now, a new game:
Trying to slice with my eye its dozen floors
Like the façade of a doll’s house and raise up
Those souls that were tucked away.
I’m learning to take in stride:
That desolate tenderness when the patient
Sheds their garb for a gentler occupation.
There is only so much a handshake can hold,
Only so much this body can sign or utter,
Before toeing the line.
WESLEY CHOU is a medical student at Harvard Medical School. He attended undergrad at Rice University in Houston, Texas and majored in biochemistry and cell biology.