The Night Call

Poetry, Volume 1; Issue 1

In silence I rise, don the ritual white
over my slept-in greens
reciting a litany of laments
about the cruelty of waking the living
in the middle of the night
in order to pronounce the dead

so useless and perfunctory
the nurses rarely wrong
the liturgy of dying halts until
the minister arrives

the family watches me
as if no one ever died before
I nod to them with practiced grimness
and they nod back … quietly … waiting

I begin the rubrics of measurement
I listen for breath and heart beat
look for spontaneous respiration
my fingers fumble for a pulse

satisfied but not surprised
I put aside my stethoscope and reach to close the eyes
pale and puffy in their meaningless stare
thanking God that men have eyelids unlike fish
the smell of death still on my hands
I cannot wash it out

ceremony now complete
I stumble back to bed
still half asleep
half alive

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