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Wednesday, September 09, 2009


by William Aarnes

“But suddenly you’re half a lifetime old.” Kevin Hart, “The Ship”

Suddenly Jack is seven-eighths a lifetime old—or even older. In the passenger’s seat, he insists to Claire,
“Something’s wrong.”
                                        When Jack steps off the treadmill,
the cardiologist looks at him as if he is dead. “Angiograph,”
the man insists. Then “pecutaneous”—as if that word
could reassure.

                              In the ambulance that hurries Jack
the forty miles to the hospital with the costly equipment,
the attendant explains that Jack should take heart
from how one of his arteries has already performed
its own bypass.

                              A confident cardiologist
shakes Jack’s hand. “Balloon,” the young man beams,
                      With no rooms left in Cardiac Care,
Jack’s rolled into ICU. And Claire, with disbelief,
lets a Lutheran chaplain comfort her with prayer.

Fox News attends the patient on the other side
of the curtain: Strident griping that the President
wants to betray the American way of life.

                                                                                A nurse
wakes Jack to remove the catheter. For half an hour
she has to press a folded towel against Jack’s groin
to staunch any bleeding. She seems to sleep.
Jack lies awake but unaroused.

                                                            At five a.m.
Fox News comes on loud: a glee club of complaint,
excited by the rumor of government death panels.

Then Claire’s in a chair, holding Jack’s hand, saying breakfast
will come soon, smiling as if something’s wrong.

William Aarnes has recently had poems in The Vocabula Review, Forge, and The Dirty Napkin.