Bio: I’m a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of small jobs repairing homes. Nights, I repair poems. I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Before I got into the construction trade, I worked in hospital service. I met Phil around 1975.
Phil is so restless, Air Force vet,
big black beard, hates hippies
though he looks like one.
“Flag-burners,” he calls them.
From war he learned: “Life changes fast.”
As tech support Phil has seen every corner
of this hospital, pulled every wire.
Hear that scream? Burn patient, little girl
in physical therapy, breaks Phil’s heart.
Want a poker game? Always one in the morgue.
Walk into the autopsy room, you might see
a doc pulling parts from a man’s chest
like lifting the head gasket on a Jeep.
“Death never changes,” Phil says.
“And it sucks.”
In the recovery room where people go after surgery
this hippie nurse is changing an IV bottle over one man
when another goes into convulsions
so the nurse drops the bottle on the first man’s chest
and he grunts and passes out while she runs
to the spasm guy. There’s no other staff.
Phil says, “Um, I’ll come back later
to fix your terminal,” but the nurse with big dark eyes
makes a pleading face, so Phil holds the bottle.
That night he sees her waiting for a bus
clutching herself like a freezing gypsy in tears
because the guy with convulsions just died
so he gives her a ride home but first
he takes her bowling, she needs it. Life changes fast.
Turns out they both love bowling,
who’da thunk it?
A peacenik and a flyboy.
Hospitals heal people, sometimes.
“Now we got three kids. We all go bowling.
Good karma, ya know?”
First published in Fifth Wednesday
© 2019 Joe Cottonwood
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF