By Vincent Casaregola
No one will know, now, or care
that, in your rush this morning,
you grabbed one dark blue sock
and one black in the rumpled sock drawer.
Now stockinged feet rest, splayed, pointing
to opposing walls of the E.R. room,
empty now from its bustling rhythms
just moments before—finally at rest.
The sheet covers you, but not your feet,
and the room surveys you, indifferently,
as one more piece of human furniture
awaiting delivery to another site.
The wall clock continues its measured pace,
its face impassive—it did not stop
when the attending ceased compressions
and told the charge nurse to “call it.”
On the floor beside your resting place
lie one crumpled blue glove and three
torn plastic wrappers that had held objects
once thought essential for your survival.
Within you, anatomy is closing down—
lungs, stilled, no longer trouble the air
with gasps, heart machinery motionless,
blood settling in its silent chambers.
Throughout miles of inner vessels,
red cells float aimlessly, and now that
the vital flow has ceased, they sift slowly
downward, sadly, in gravity’s firm grasp.
In the brain, electric currents flicker
for a moment, with power now lost,
and section by section neurons fade,
darken themselves, erasing memory.
Tubes dangle from this or that device,
one or two still attached to nose and arm—
linens, blue and white, retain their wrinkles
as you left them, scented of your sweat.
From one wall, the sprinkler system head
remains unperturbed, its chrome housing,
cylindrical, offering back a convex
reflection of your now-pale repose.
Lying here, you remain in this moment’s
near silence—only the subtle sounds of air
through the building’s pipes—in just a minute,
in will come attendants to wheel you out.
Your mild scent fades from the air, and
your image dissolves, softly, from the memory
of beige walls and grey machines—with you
gone, this room awaits another life or death.
Vincent Casaregola, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of English and the Director of the Film Studies Program at St. Louis University. He has published and won awards for both literary nonfiction and poetry. Journals include The Examined Life, Natural Bridge, New Letters, Via, and The Iowa Journal of Literary Studies.