Posted by Chris Colvin on Feb 13, 2020

In Summary

Glaring lights.

Flashing Reds, blues, and whites.

The days unfold, unkind, coarse and terse.

“the patient in five needs morphine, dilaudid, and worse.”

“the patient in eight wants their best friend, their priest, and their mime.”

“the patient in two has more questions, concerns for the third time.”

“The patient in six wants to file a complaint about you.”

Sigh. I begin to dictate a single late chart or two.

“Correct your order. Read this. Sign over here!”

EMS is calling. Read the films over there.

“don’t you dare forget, the critical care!”

“do more with less, and then…”

As they clasp hands and grin.



These lurid puppet masters.

“Remember to smile.”

As they belch so ungainly.

“We need to suck up to our Dear Lord Press-Ganey!”



Aye, Puppet Master.


“Room One!”

“what’s the matter?”

EMS rolls as does the patient’s death rattle.

“No breath. No pulse. Wife is behind him. Move.”

“Dear God, please! Do something! Save him! He’s blue!”

Orders given. Compressions. Shock. Shock. Shock. Nothing. It’s over. I’m fine.

Wailing. Screams. Echoes of pain. 45 years old. Two kids. No more Time.

Clock ticks, ticks, ticks. Patient slaps me with meth in their spit.

Shoulders ache, and chest burns. Drunk guy is throwing a fit.

Head down, and work harder. Head up, and keep moving.

Keep going and going. You’ve got to keep proving.

The Halls are full, and the nurses are sparse.

More patients. More patients.

The urine’s a farce.



Aye, Puppet Master.


Here they come.

Waiting room full of woeful misery.

I’ve counted thirty-nine more souls, and they all needed me.

Bleeding broke bones, heart sounds and shrill tones, a melody of who’s who and whatnot.

What to do next? Who to save forward? This one is breathing. I fret that one, is not.

A cascade of frailty, diapers and all, old ones, and young ones, short ones and tall.

En masse, triaged and trued, and all I want is a meal, but they spill into the hall.

Count, sew, inject. Tube, cut, drain, and dissect. Explain alas, indefinitely.

Hear the word cancer, dodge sputum, behold warnings of family.

Please take a seat, sir. Close the door, disclose the sad news.

Their shaking, shocked shoulders in empty hospital pews.

I cry. I sigh. Hang my head. This is it. Forever after.

A flaming carousel of unmitigated disaster.



Aye, Puppet Master.


Tires grind slow and hum.

Exhausted. Worn. The ride home is so solemn.

The steering wheel is the only thing that responded in kind.

Pleasant trees, cows sublime, all the things in pastures of Time.

Wheels halt. Driveway beckons. I’m tired. They’re inside. Lawn’s empty.

Picturesque. Three small children, and a lonely, loving wife I can’t wait to see.

A smattering of dogs, toys, and socks await. The keyholes oblige.

I peer inside, breach the door slowly, eyes forcibly held wide.

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Look at this! Look what we did!”

I do, and I try, but the ER cries keep coming, sweet kid.

The smell. The godawful smell of the GI bleed copper.

Burns my mind’s eye, quick where is the stopper?

The vaulted foyer is empty and full all at once.

I’ll likely have nightmares in ensuing months.

My head pounds. Drums, so damn Deafening!

It’s just the pure patter of feet and their scuffling.



Aye, Puppet Master.


A cycle, of spent decades.

I miss birthdays, ball games, and parades.

Anniversary, a birth, a death, and a wedding in a sense.

My time in whole, its sum, a dearth of possibilities and presence.

“I’m sorry. I’m late. I forgot. I didn’t know. These meetings. These patients, you see.”

And yet, don’t they know? There’s no rest, no reprieve, and no peace for me.

No respite of once was, and how I could get it for cheap.

More shifts, and less sleep, more deaths that I keep.

Mind locked, soul numb, heart hurts. You know?

Compassion wanes, and the effort just slows.

Upon the open schedule, I begrudgingly go.



Aye, Puppet Master.



Parents age, I forget to call.

Reunions passed, damn near missed them all.

Christmas every now and then, football weekends just pretend.

My boys are grown, their dreams unknown, their paths excel. I tried.

I forget the trash. “I’m sorry”. The dishes. “I’m sorry”. I promise. I lied.

I can’t remember the things. Do all the God-damn big things. I hate it. It’s true.

I fail at something most days. I’m trying. I’ve messed up so much, especially you.

The job calls. The hospital demands it. I must go. I’m just a lost soul, but I must.

A duty. My honor. Penitent and prostrate. In my oath, I must trust.

I’m tired. So damn tired. I can’t ask for help. I just hate to fuss.

The chest hurts so. My sleep, let it go. Nights fade to day.

And the once great light of my youth fades away.





The pain in my chest once again is here.

The fatigue is known, as is the smoky, cloaked figure.

I’ve seen him once or thrice on ER nights chocked full of poor vice.

And here he is for me, old me, in this room as I wait for a patient covered in lice.

Brilliant colors fade, light dims, voices distant, be assured that it’s dire.

And yet the healer becomes ill though feet warmed by the fire.

No one blinked as I tarried and toiled upon this great hill.

I sigh and I cry. Meaningless. The nurses are still.

The lifetime, my time, came too fast and went.

Maybe next shift, next week, but I’m spent.

As for all, gone before me, it’s nigh.