Gurney Tears (Audrey Shafer)

Morning frost cocoons my car.
I drive anyway
peeping through the hole widened,
by hot air and the slash of wipers.

The physician
excises, exenterates, exhorts
a vertical parasite on the supinated.
Yet, even so,
A patient will gently
push aside the doctor’s probing fingers,
Reach in, and produce his own
Soul, which he holds out on his palm
a gleaming light
a sudden clarification
Before he collects himself and pockets it back inside.

Today is a day of gurney tears
glistening in canthi or lingering in the hollow between
cheek and tragus.
I see fluorescent lights mirrored on the liquid
taste salt on my mind’s tongue.

The mother of three
Embarrassed, cries before her sterilization.
Tears dampen her black hair.
She smiles, apologizes.
How difficult the letting
go.
The quiet flow continues till she drifts into anesthesia.

The internist, whose coronary artery grafts
prematurely close,
Forces his tears inward
falling
like rain dropping into hollow pots.
They were supposed to last ten years

He mutters over and over
and is drenched in raw,
uncontrollable sweat.

And finally — the veteran who
had survived
War, operations, pain
today is defeated by the dry suck of cigarettes
The first leg will be amputated.
He shakes the gurney with
sobs
before his piecemeal death.
Only forty-five, he is already
white whiskered —
they look soft
I want to touch them.
Instead I touch his hand, then
inject into his intravenous line.

I am swollen. I need time
apart.

It’s getting cold.
Almost home.
Perhaps it will snow tonight
and I can sleep
under the white, white
covers.

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