Saturday, July 29, 2017

Figure 8's On A Frozen Pond

He told me they were hiding, he and his wife and son,
when the air ripped, his eardrums ruptured and by the time he got to his feet,
his house was gone and he wasn't married anymore.

I set his broken arm, treated his gashed forehead. 
I asked him his name, but I don't think he answered.
His son is here, as are so many. Some will survive and wander off.

I was trained as a nurse in a hospital in France, with a job promise
back home in Quebec. I am multi-lingual:
I can say "You're going to die," in seven languages.

I am slight. My movements are deliberate.
I was never any help in our backyard hockey games, growing up. 
Now, I am as healthy as a chambered bullet.

I thought he was blind for a minute, but he was only in shock.
Once, I saw a lightning-struck tree next to a frozen pond where I was skating. 
I put my arms out. Ta da. I will save this guy's arm, stop his head from bleeding.

You can see the tracers. All this death, it gets into your head,
the blood forever under my bitten nails.
Things bodies were never intended to withstand come from the air,
sent by strangers, wiping heartbeats from the face of the earth.

"Would you like to see your son?" I don't add, "while there's still time."
He is ambulatory and triple-oriented. He is blown up, within himself.
We pick our way around the cots, shelves, and treatment stations.

A tv is on, powered by generator. We pass by it.
Someone is talking about the war. My patient can't hear a word.
Here is his boy. I smile at him out of old habit, gesture at a box where he can sit.

I have been here six months. These people, they shiver and cough,
hemorrhage from catastrophic wounds, ask for water, go still.
I will go back to Canada in January, empty and silent,

Healthy as a chambered round.
_______

For Karin's "A Glance At Narrative" challenge at Real Toads.


 

22 comments:

Jennifer Wagner said...

This was entrancing. One of the most finely written poems I have read in a good long while. Dang, I wish I had your talent.

Fireblossom said...

Gosh, thank you, Jennifer!

Outlawyer said...

Oh, so sad and very powerful. You compress a lot here; all going on all the time and yet each story is its own. Thank you for participating with this poem. K.

Susie Clevenger said...

We don't often hear from those who've had their arms and mind knee deep in catastrophe and trying to still the blood flow of body and spirit. Such a powerful, poetic picture of care.

Martin Kloess said...

What a moment, brought to life. The realness and the surrealness of it is well captured and expressed.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Shay--We're all like Jennifer Wagner. We ALL wish we had your writing gifts.

(By the way, the last line was soooo pristine.)

Dani H said...

as so much of your poetry has been lately, this is startling and striking and sorrowful and terrifying and powerful and stunning!

Kim Russell said...

A powerful narrative from start to finish. I love the economy of words, especially in the opening lines, where you set the scene, and the matter-of-fact tone of a trained nurse interspersed with emotion:
'You can see the tracers. All this death, it gets into your head,
the blood forever under my bitten nails.
Things bodies were never intended to withstand come from the air,
sent by strangers, wiping heartbeats from the face of the earth'.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Such a beautifully emotive narrative, Shay ❤️ I was so absorbed in its intricate details that I didn't even realize I had goosebumps till the end!

Kerry O'Connor said...

Things bodies were never intended to withstand come from the air,
sent by strangers, wiping heartbeats from the face of the earth.

I wish these lines were purely fictional, and your scenario not so real as to raise the goosebumps on my flesh. But, these are the times, are they not?

Such a stirring narrative, the third person making it all the more poignant. It is no easier to be the witness.

Brendan MacOdrum said...

No one jumps into a tale like you do FB. You work it like triage--speedy, matter of fact, tournaquets first and get onto the next body. This is also a place most of us are too comfortable to imagine, laden with facts that don't rhyme. But my favorite thing about this high caliber narrative is the title, which is razor sharp to begin with and hangs in the mind like a descending blade before getting to what it was meant to cleave at the very end. Wish I had me a river too these days.

Fireblossom said...

Ah, nice catch, Brendan!

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Yikes!

Cloudia said...

A friend of mine is an attorney staying in Greece to assist refugees. She see's so much, keeps going. Your poem is a fit tribute to her. Thank you Shay

hedgewitch said...

What a tale--that when it comes to the larger world, even when we are in it, we are not of it, even when mentally we feel every impact, as here with a healer's empathy and frustration and sympathetic pain. Your bullet image is outstanding--a metaphor for all we passively do to destroy simply by existing where and the way we do, skating infinity on a frozen surface that covers a depth of tragedy and death.

paulscribbles said...

Yeah...that chambered bullet...it's a killer. The poem is crafted with wit and a sharp eye.Brilliant.

Toni Spencer said...

Absolutely brilliant. You made me weep when I read that you can say "You're dying" in seven different languages. such unspeakable horror written with compassion and truth.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

You take us right into the scene in a way newscasters can't..........we stare numbly at the screen, too shell shocked to take in the vastness of the planetary distress. But your poem makes us feel the humanity of such events. A wonderfully gripping write, Shay. You always totally nail it.

Marian said...

Wow. Love how you came back to the chambered bullet. Whew!

said...

"He is ambulatory and triple-oriented. He is blown up, within himself."

You are a goddess of words, Shay. Why you would ever bother speaking to another human eludes me; we are all beneath you.

This nurse fascinates me. Something tells me she is the deadliest weapon of all --- as if she kills with her healing touch.

"I am slight. My movements are deliberate." ... "Once, I saw a lightning-struck tree next to a frozen pond where I was skating.
I put my arms out. Ta da." I feel like she both knocked it down and picked it back up.

grapeling said...

this reminds me of Stephen Crane, but more tangible.

wrenching, and clear-eyed. ~

Sarah Russell said...

Powerful. The style gave the feeling of frenzy and helplessness. Great perspective.