The patient (poem)
Through the prayers of her family the patient
they believed this, they were happy
the miracle was theirs and not another’s
her toss, but the trial ended, its second phase never entered
over conventional treatments not improved
And time short, none to risk
She knew all in the world of putting pain in the background
of sleeping through it
She had intravenous morphine
to carry at her hip like a canteen
She could sip coffee taking drugs
Her sister asked, what do you want
a screen, a big big screen
hung off the ceiling so I can lie
with my back cushion and neck cushion and my head
propped on the sofa arm
her brother-in-law bought and installed the mount
but it needed moving the sofa to the center of the room
Then in a half-doze, star on her own stage, she walked into an insider’s view
Servant: Mr. Grandin, sir, wagon’s up from the station.
Grandin: Ah. Where have you put her?
Mrs. Grandin: Barnaby, don’t be ungracious. Speak of the girl as though she were an armchair! Poor thing’s been on trains for days. She’s probably frightened.
Grandin: I’ll hope to send her packing if she is! What sort of teacher hasn’t any backbone? A useless sort, in my opinion.
Mrs. Grandin: Oh, if Miss Angelsby can’t stiffen her spine against those opinions of yours, I shan’t disagree. She ought to…
A tap on the doorframe.
Miss Angelsby: I’m awfully sorry. My name is Claretta Angelsby. I’m to teach French, English composition, and piano to Mr. Grandin’s children.
Grandin: And table manners, and anything like comportment—
Mrs. Grandin: Claretta, dear! You are very welcome… Have I got a smudge? Touches cheek.
Miss Angelsby: Oh, so gauche of me, to stare! I do apologize. Your man, who carried my bags in, had said ‘Mr. and Mrs’… Looks away, embarrassed.
Mrs. Grandin: My son, Barnaby, is a widower.
To which the singer shakes her locks. “No.” To the newswoman, in response. “It’s like…
I don’t fake. I’m live. Cause people are haters, they make up [bleep] think you’d be mortified. You know, you do twenty shows, a hundred shows…a thousand, who knows? In a lifetime. You make mistakes. And you laugh, you push through.”
“You’ve worked with so many of the greats, many who are sadly no longer with us. I’d like to mention some names, and get your take, on… Let’s start with Luther Vandross.”
A song plays. She wants to hear it.
An ad cuts to.
Two taps of a horn, and the Gecko’s voice. The patient would rather not, though a few she has chuckled at. But to carry civilization, your spot…isn’t that the mission?
What each soul brings to the banquet.
And I was meant to be important. Got derailed, long before.
Authorities say the ground is too unstable to attempt recovery of the body. “Realistically, the person may end up buried, if we lose more of the hillside. Right now we aren’t risking our rescuers’ lives.”
“The victim’s reason for approaching the clearly marked danger zone can only be guessed at. The Sheriff’s Department has information about an abandoned vehicle on the berm, about a mile south of here on county road 23, but they won’t confirm whether the vehicle and the victim are thought connected.”
The patient feels contact, a knee press her thigh. The cushion her other thigh rests against caves in, and her right hand is taken. Her left hand is taken.
[Whispered] “There. That was a breath.”
(2022, Stephanie Foster)