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Daniel Becker

ER DOA

At first he’s nowhere in the computer.

His wife is on her way from work.

Their sons are waiting in a waiting room

 

next to patient registration.

I had wandered down there

to complain about another patient

 

assigned to me who wasn’t mine,

but down there they had worse things

to worry about,

 

like the man who worked upstairs

whom they’d just finished

working on.

 

After hearing his name and looking him up

by adding Sr. to his last name

and reading what I had and could have done,

 

I offered to tell the boys

who are young men not boys

and call their grandfather

 

and try to reach their mother

and greet his colleagues,

now filing in to wait.

 

Pretty soon I was in the middle of this tragedy

directing traffic the way I had been taught

and can’t stop.

 

The older son acted older.

He must be named for his father.

The wife and mother told me

 

how much her husband liked me,

and trusted me,

then she thanked me.

 

When I came home from work and my son,

visiting for Christmas,

asked how was my day

 

I talked about what happened

as if explaining a photograph

tucked inside a wallet,

 

someone who reminds you

who you used to be

and who you thought you’d be,

 

something you carry around for years and can’t

throw away and sometimes

don’t think about.

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