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Overture.

We went to the hospital but no one died It seemed like if we were careful we might come back alive I had the keys to my parents' apartment in my pocket, just in case A young woman with a man who might have been her lover Or her father buried her head in her hands And told a stranger, not myself, that she was having an attack An anxiety attack which is some form of dying And the older man put his hand on her arm And looked calm, a hand on the arm Might help in an emergency, anything does Anything's better than a baffled silence Interrupted by an insipid remark about the weather In small towns people talk about the weather and think about sex I thought the woman with the older man who was having an attack Was someone I might marry, in another context The people in the emergency room were watching a house burn down

on television But I couldn't tell whether they were watching the 11 o'clock news

or Baretta I've gained some weight recently, no one cares except you Only one relative or friend is allowed at The patient's bedside at the same time When my first daughter was born In Cooley Dickinson Hospital On the outskirts of Northampton, Mass. The head nurse ordered me out of the delivery room While my wife was in the last throes of labor Though I'd been with her non-stop for twenty-four hours But I returned, insistent, saw the arrogance in my daughter's eyes Then careened into the night to my motel Where I took a sleeping pill, and in the morning Ate a huge breakfast in the Florence Diner In Florence, Mass., before returning to the hospital To see my new family The leaves look petrified as they gather On the fringe of the sky There are bodies on stretchers waiting to be admitted to private rooms There are two patients to a room, or four, the Polish man Who shares a room with my father Suffers from asthma, my father Leans on my arm as we walk down the hall He tells me he's going to have an operation to improve his sex life My mother called to tell me he couldn't stand up And when I arrived at their apartment With my second daughter, who was born at home, delivered by a

midwife On the night of winter's first snowstorm The ambulance was already waiting out front It was 90 degrees at 9 PM, no breeze, and the ambulance driver Said: "It's going to be a McSorley's night," apropos of nothing.
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Author:Warsh, Lewis
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:438
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