March 19, 2005

Letting Someone Die

IF YOU'VE NEVER DONE IT and would like to know what it is like to let someone die, what follows is a true story.

Caught In Traffic
by Gerard Van der Leun

We'd strapped him to his bed for over a year,
Paid a fat, black woman to wear a white dress
Change his bed pan, and sit with him at night,
But when the bone white pigeon banked
Between the buildings in a pale twilight
The old man's brain liquified.

Foam, whose tiny bubbles reflected my face,
Bloomed on his lips as he swallowed his tongue.
It said 5:47 on the red crystal clock by the wet bar,
As his breath rattled in the room like some
Tired exhaust fan from the Roaring Twenties.

His wife was out shopping at Woolworths,
Or trying to sell something at Cartiers.
The black nurse was downstairs flirting
With Desi the tap dancing doorman.
Prince the chauffeur buffed the black Lincoln
And wondered what he do when the old lady died.
My first wife was teasing our toddler in the living room.
Everyone else was trying to get home from work.

Somewhere inside his bleached skull sore nerves
Kept sending signals down the spine to his heart.
I blotted his lips in that wheezing orange room
As his arms flapped like a beached fish before
The fisherman brings down the club.
I turned from the bed, pulled up the beige blinds,
And gazed out the window wondering
Where the bone white pigeon had gone.

Then I called the Doctor's number listening
To his breath until the call was answered.
"He's dying," I said to the man I'd never met.
"You should send an ambulance and a team
Of medics right now. He's going. Going fast."

The voice echoed back from far across town,
"He's home. He's been dead for a year, you know.
We just change the sheets and pay the nurses.
I can keep his body going as long--as long--
As long as you want. You need to tell me.
Look outside. How heavy's traffic on Fifth Avenue?"

I looked down on a solid ribbon of oozing steel.
"Wedged," I said. "Hardly moving at all.
"Look at his eyes," the voice said. I looked
Down into his eyes and they had no bottom.
"Who's there?" the voice asked on the phone.
"No one I know," I said. "No one at all."

I held the phone and waited looking over the park.
"I'll send an ambulance when you tell me," he said.
The bone white pigeon came sweeping out of the light
And settled on the sill as calm as the quiet in the room.
"Send them when you can," I said.
"Don't hurry. They'll just be caught in traffic."

Posted by Vanderleun at March 19, 2005 8:11 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

What makes this a partisan issue? I'm usually good at deciphering the left's agenda, but this one has me baffled.

Posted by: erp at March 19, 2005 10:07 AM