A Malignant Christmas

I stand quietly outside the patient room,
The room in which currently sit
A young couple
And their eight-month-old daughter,
Whose new cancer diagnosis
I hold
In the printed lab results
Clutched in my trembling hands.

I glance at my watch:
12:01 AM
It’s now officially Christmas.
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Plays faintly from a nurse’s computer.

In the moment it takes me
To open the room door,
I realize
Kids are already unwrapping presents
Just a few time zones away.

There’s a fucking nativity scene
On the front lawn of the hospital,
And
I’m telling a mother and a father,
“Her lab results came back…”

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Soccer

Overcast Sunday morning.
Brisk north wind.
Two boys play soccer in practice field next to deserted high school.
One wears olive green hoodie, red mesh shorts, fluorescent orange cleats.
Friend wears grey beanie cap, black Adidas sweats, blue t-shirt over black long-sleeves.

Early teens, perhaps thirteen or fourteen years:
That tender age when child’s body stretches
Over a lithe, growing frame;
When youthful energy meets budding strength,
Resulting in effortless, tireless athleticism;
When cell phones and Snapchat porn
Vie equally with Legos and hide-and-seek matches;
When dreams begin their inexorable march
Against the onslaught of daily existence.

Hoodie boy scores goal against friend;
Yells in victory, voice cracks;
They switch places.
In ten, fifteen years’ time, where will the boys be?  Who will they be?
Will they remember this cold November morning?
Will they remember to dream?
Do I?
Would that I could talk to my fourteen-year-old self.
Why does it take us a lifetime to figure out how to live?

Hold a Child

I lost a kid in the ER today.  Only the second one in my career.  Nothing in medicine or in life is more devastating.

I wept as I drove home.  I wept for the girl.  I wept for her parents.  I wept for a fucked up universe in which children die.

Whoever you are, wherever you live or work, whatever your family situation, hold a child today.  Your son or daughter, sullen teen or ebullient toddler, little brother or sister, baby niece or nephew: it doesn’t matter.  If there exists a child in your life who means something to you, tell them so.  Wrap them in your arms, hug them tightly, sit in the sunlight with them.  Say you love them.

Please.  Hold them.

Fires of Suburbia

Across the darkening park grounds,
The indistinct hillocks of which glow softly in the purple aestival dusk,
Tens of thousands of fireflies scintillate,
Their caudal luminations streaking upwards from the loamy earth
Like sparks borne aloft from the coals of a smoldering campfire.

We too arose from Wild Horse Green:
Alex and Trevor,
Taylor and Brent and tomboyish Stace.
The hillocks then were castles,
To be defended with stick swords and pine cone grenades;
The fields were African savannahs,
Teeming with housecat lionesses and Old Man McIntyre’s Labrador hyenas;
The elm copse was a military fort and, later, a shelter to adolescent trysts.
During college, the pavilions housed picnics and occasional, accidental, baby showers;
Now, graduation parties and wedding receptions and more baby showers;
Eventually, retirement celebrations and funerals.

The graveled path clicks and rasps underfoot.
Few of the entomic flashes crest the treetops,
For the park employs many wardens:
Bats and nighthawks,
Strategically spun spiderwebs,
Children with cheesecloth nets and Mason jars.

One flare breaks free, blazing—a reverse meteor—into the mauve twilight,
Adding to the starry firmaments
Its fleeting, chartreuse fluorescence.

Villanelle for Cody

What future lies in eyes of tarnished bronze?
Beneath cruel blows, young boy’s shy gaze burns bright.
Comprising hate or hope, keen glint there dawns.

His father’s fists the sole paternal bonds
Defined in child’s experiential sight.
What future lies in eyes of tarnished bronze?

The monster drinks and strikes and then absconds;
Precocious son bleeds, weeping through the night.
Comprising hate or hope, keen glint there dawns.

Alone, afraid, as precipice dark yawns,
The lad considers life: where to, what’s right,
What future lies in eyes of tarnished bronze?

Perpetuate his father’s sin, mere pawns
To Evil’s might? Or flee and seek Love’s height?
Comprising hate or hope, keen glint there dawns.

Outside the clinic, breeze across the lawns,
As he, my patient, lets his tears alight.
What future lies in eyes of tarnished bronze?
Comprising hate or hope, keen glint there dawns.