Early Poems (2004-2006)

Originally published in Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts

Office Visit

What’s my basic unit
of currency? It’s not dollars.
Each patient encounter
makes a withdrawal.

What’s the exchange rate?
It has nothing to do
with Medicare payments.
Each prayer makes a deposit.

Fifteen years since the positive test.
His first doctor visit is this week.
I’m supposed to spend
7 minutes with him.

His eyes are already red. I take in
his cornrowed hair and hollow cheeks.
My cold hands on his bird neck
feel dismay, but my note says

shotty adenopathy.
I haven’t felt that in a long time.
Each poem I write is an interim
statement, so I can be reconciled.

 

Originally published in The Barefoot Review

Your Choice

I happen to be there when you’re admitted.
My job is to keep you alive at any cost.
Lucky for you that I have experience
& I’m really good at diagnosing

the opportunistic diseases of AIDS.
So when you have the bad luck
to have a rare pneumonia
& a virus attacking your eyes,

I load you up with several toxins.
to save your vision, to save your life.
You’re ambivalent about being treated.
I’m sure you won’t be when you feel better.

In time I get to see you in the office.
You’ve gained weight and look healthy.
You wear a beaded & embroidered
white sherwani & matching kufi

over your neat & corn-rowed hair.
You look resplendent. You’ve come to tell me
that after long thought & deliberation,
you’ve decided to stop taking meds

that I prescribed so you can pursue
q’uranic healing under the guidance
of the mullah at your mosque.
My job as your doctor is to let

you make your own informed decision,
even if I know it means
you’ll die.  I tell you I disagree
with your choice. I tell you

I support your decision & I’m
still your doctor. That was the last
time I saw you, except in the picture
over your obituary in the Press.

 

Originally published in F.I.N.D.I.N.G.S.

Birth

At the hospital
we’re supposed
to take death in stride.
Some deaths reverberate
through the bright hallways:
obstetrical
catastrophe.

She was Vietnamese,
27 weeks pregnant.
Her husband had come
to this country to join her.
She died of a stroke.
They removed the baby,
who’s struggling

in the nursery.
The husband keens
on a single note,
not rising or falling.
All around him,
stoic and stone-faced
stand the rest of his family.

The constant and steady
song of the mourning
unnerves the nurses.
One wants to ask them
to please leave the room,
but in the end
we let them stay.

 

 

 

 

 

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