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Thursday, January 08, 2015


by Terese Coe

Sitting on a cot in the walkway of the ER for hours
to get up and walk the circle of disease and decay,
he is struck by the bleeding case, the festering case,
the dying woman no one tends but her daughter.
After four hours the intimidation team of interns
marches in to insist on an overnight stay. You’ll
have a bed within two hours. Another three hours on,
no bed. He cases the joint for exits. Uniformed officers
stand at every exit except one, which is locked,
and prove their seriousness when he
approaches them. Having signed himself in, he is
no longer free to quit the place. He climbs into his
clothing again, saying he’s cold, ambles to the empty
interior hall and waits. Five minutes later a nurse
enters the hall, fails to notice him in the dead
end on the other side, swipes her card on
the pad for the unguarded door and, like a
miracle, passes through the magic portal with her tray
of meds. It remains open just long enough for him to follow
her through unseen. He finds himself in the main hall
of the hospital, suddenly unconstrained across meandering
public areas and out the front door. Intact. At home,
Arlene calls to say she went to visit him in the ER
and they were looking for him: I asked them how you
could have disappeared and a nurse said “He’s not a
psychiatric patient, so we can’t force him to stay.”
He says, “If I’d been there any longer, I would have been
a psychiatric patient.” That night the swelling subsides
when he takes a shower. No one calls from the ER
to ask questions--yet.

Terese Coe's poems and translations have appeared in Threepenny Review, Poetry, New American Writing, Ploughshares, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Huffington Post, Poetry Review, TLS, Agenda, New Walk Magazine, Warwick Review, The Stinging Fly, and many other publications, including anthologies. One of her poems was chosen for the 2012 London Olympics Rain of Poems and heli-dropped across London, and her latest collection of poems will be out in February 2015.