First Woman: I. First Woman Katja

Intensive Care

physician of record
Look to your work when I come to you,
vivid as if with fever, holding out
one dangerous hand.
Stronger men than you have felt it,
that is, the confusion,
and strong as any passion the impulse
to just say Yes. Trust me too:
I see you smile when I
enter, my body
in check, saying something simple:
but what you hear is something yet again.

counseling the family, cont’d
Why not by th’ hand, sir?
How have I offended?

You lie, you disarming
woman, you turn, glancing
behind you, looking for a picture, a framed
set of rules, an open door—
ordinary, like the measure of desire.
All so ordinary. You are undone
by the simple trick of a made
mistake, gravity and sadness
seem to be the law. You break
easily, have to negotiate the pieces
again and again in darkness, and again
smoke in the air is the only mark
you make.
                    You have obedience scanted,
and well deserve the want that you have wanted.

the patient was unconscious
Trust me too—I’ll betray
you only in the way your body may,
silent, explained by metaphor, unkind
unless reviewed from comfortable,
objective distance—nothing
is unobtainable, no pain
remarkable—trust me,
and with my cool hands, cold
heart, I will prepare a place
that like your body holds your spirit
safe for your return. It is a journey
hard to remember—did I tell you,
it is easy to bargain with the devil.
Offer a soul
that doesn’t belong to you.

and expired at 4:10 am
If fortune brag of two
she loved and hated,
one of them we behold.
I loved you, too,
whatever good it did me. Will you kill
the physician and hand down the fee
for the disease to spend—I think, for you,
nothing is holy, nothing is too much.
What should I wish for? That our pain go on
and on beyond us, pacing like a runner
that never tires? As something else is ending
when I am standing silent at the bedside
distance and stillness
we are still forgetting.

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February 2002 2River