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An Afternoon In The ER

by Stephen Nathan

A bounty of medical technology looms all around us

impotent as my mother

who looks up from the gurney through the swarm of doctors and nurses

all needles and tubes

scurrying about vainly trying to trick fate

as her tired heart longs for sleep


the shuddering inevitability of her

a cold businesslike fact as she lays there

eyes groping for answers

she seems so slight now

a little girl in her eighties


begging for the breath no one could give her


It'll be okay I lied through my helplessness

wanting to rail at this quick finish

at all the words I'd kept hidden for later

always later

words that will disappear with her


Her hand

fingers like the spindly legs of an insect

crawls along the sheet searching for my hand

which I surrender for the first time since I was sentenced to adulthood.


Her hand bony now, weak and chilled,

but still with the touch that gave me breath.

I hold hers and she holds mine

the love breezing between our hands

sweeps through the past

as love can

my tiny hand in hers crossing the street

walking to school or through tears to the doctor to mend my broken arm

warm and safe

always safe these memories we squeeze tightly

past now present

me grey but still her tot.


I kiss our knotted hands,

the kiss the only truth I can utter

and breathless now

her hand slips from mine

the way it has to

Nathan has primarily written for film, television and theater winning, among other acknowledgements, the Humanitas Prize, Writers Guild Award, and two Emmy nominations. He has been writing poetry for years and has just decided to start sharing his work. He has recently been featured in Typishly, Cathexis Northwest Press and upcoming in Paragon Press and Cultural Weekly.


August 2019

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