Off the Shelf
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An indulgent gasp
grasps the molded corners
dry tongue to chipping paint
searching for a word to say
or a white coat glistening like a saint
shakes the chronic observer, her doctor,
who lingers and sways in the doorway
listening for a further complaint
with a bell that does not ring
swinging a stethoscope, stat slowed,
a wish to grant and one’s history to hold
in a glance, mimicking the sunken days
when their future was in their common past.

He took her to walk the metered halls
in countless steps, this new old guest
awaiting the fall but expecting the best
the stolid voice on call now lightly jests
to a woman who once cleaned his mess
and not the other way; and who today
forgoes pronouns, no possession frets
but the transpiration of their huddled breaths:
strongly coughed or meekly sighed
like a dubious goodbye
and (I) afraid to conflate this timeless haste
with the nervous clamor of medical gall.

Escaping the Wing and on hers rode
a draft of hope: against cancer’s reproach
to stay and subside under Taxol’s demise
instead to spend this winter’s end
outside the hospital, beside a life
that does not wait for cure but finds
grateful memories in intravenous lines
and shuddering from the vigorous cold
in the beautiful frigidity of growing old
is bold in the shuffle of her tireless pace
in the cramped condition of a boundless space:
the loving tremor in your hands,
and mere ability to laugh
at a physician standing in the snow
with a withering woman he used to know.

Steven Lange Steven Lange (13 Posts)

Medical Student Editor and in-Training Staff Member

Albany Medical College

Steven attends Albany Medical College as a student of the Class of 2017. Raised in Queens, New York, he earned a BA in English with a minor in Biology from Binghamton University in May 2013. Some of his interests include poetry, martial arts, traveling, and continental philosophy. He is currently aspiring to become a radiologist.