If I’m ever confined to the hospital, I hope someone will be kind and come read poetry and stories to me. Don’t leave me in the clutches of Judge Judy and Oprah, I beg of you!
“At Your Hospital Bed” by Mark Z. Danielewski
Not all poems are poems.
Here’s one way to tell them apart:
a poem that is not a poem will forget you;
a poem that is a poem will sit beside you
at your hospital bed.
Those old enough will know what I mean.
Those young enough, I’m happy to think,
don’t have a clue.
Though eventually most of us are dragged to this
understanding by someone we love or could love or like
just enough to feel something more than remote concern for
who falls ill.
We bring petals, potted roots, that book
perhaps; cards, balloons, maybe an app.
Whatever the nurses let us take in.
Maybe it’s not an illness either
but an injury (or something meaner than both).
It makes no difference.
We’ll stay. Sit there.
And sit there some more.
And if caring dragged us here, how
we’ll resent what caring has in store.
Each instant will remind us of where one
Day we too have to go – some hospital
Bed, some state of failing, however curt-
ailed or drawn out.
To make matters worse, the one lying there
Will resent us just as much, because despite what
Craving preceded our visit – that broken-down countdown
Of breaking minutes – by the time we arrived we saved
Nothing, changed nothing, offered nothing lasting.
At best we were only a second-best distraction.
And yet when the time comes to go. Our
Departures provoke melancholy, anxiety,
Distress. Even if those are communicated
With a wave, thanks, the insistent yet questioning
Gaze of an EKG, we guess, or some other monitor.
We’ll hate ourselves for loving
To get out of there so fast
Which we won’t love for long
Because love always brings us back
To this one who has brought to fact
The frailty of shadows living.
And so we’ll forget the presents,
The helium, electronics and chatter.
We will just show up and be
– again and again – and so let
the fallen be, by finally recognizing
what it means to be – over and over.
Recognizing is what matters;
recognizing is what poems demand.
Remember it, those of you
lucky enough to receive one.
No matter what’s said, no matter
what’s so difficult to understand:
a poem is a promise in the starkest hour
to sit beside you at your hospital bed
and not let you fade into fear alone.