Despite not being a doctor, I give him my best advice:
AARP, I tell him. Always, At all costs, Remain Perpendicular.
My old pal Willard would laugh if his hearing aid hadn’t come loose
and we’d been sitting at the diner,
shooting the breeze over coffee, him telling me the same story
the third or fourth time. I love the guy.
But now he’s lying on a gurney in the ER corridor for the 4th straight hour,
getting edgy, and who can blame him after all this time,
and against my best advice, parallel to the floor
along with all the others, quiet on their gurneys
or writhing gently in pain,
even the pain-energy wrested out of them?
Each either has or doesn’t have insurance—
they’re black and brown and grey and young
and the doctor--who hurries by from time to time
gives me a look that signifies, I know, I know, it’s crazy—
she’s a beautiful yellow-beige, with a face shaped like a heart
and I think I’m in love. The ER, this is America,
the great equalizer, no one’s special here,
no one gets to see the doctor first because he’s middle class or white,
or he used to be a Protestant from Rochester back in the day
and he was famous for clicking his heels and proclaiming,
In Germany they stand up when I enter the room!
And everyone would tell him, Sit down and shut up, Will!
Though I’m not next of kin,
a nurse figures I must be close, so stops by and tells me,
he’ll have a stress test first thing in the morning,
after spending the night in the hall
cause the treadmill’s booked the rest of today.
And just in case you needed a reminder,
Don’t get sick in America,
you gotta have patience to burn,
and one way or another,
you’re gonna have to pay.
Alan Walowitz has been published in various places on the web and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in his native borough of Queens, NY. Alan’s chapbook Exactly Like Love was published by Osedax Press in 2016 and is now in its second printing. He’ll be reading at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village on Tuesday, March 7th at 6 pm.