Love in the Emergency Room
Homeless fall here as often as they are able
to sleep in the heart-starting fluorescent light,
still as a urine cup.
Dan leans against the cot where I scream
and grow brave on Percocet.
He is normal except for the ways
in which he is exceptional;
this makes him truly normal.
He wears the suit in which he married me,
given to him by a friend moving to Russia.
The night he left we drank PBR in the only dive
in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I try to make St. Lucians tell me about home,
to remember some of “Omeros.”
But every day feels this way:
people walk blindly wearing cares
on their bodies like skin. Some have fallen in a heap.
Some take pity and tell me a story.
They like that I require little;
it’s easier to be good. It’s never long
before they reveal something
that troubles them. They don’t know what to do
with the homeless who want turkey sandwiches,
to say nothing of their daughters.
I want to love the heap which seems dead
but is a person.
I should lift him in my arms and teach him
how to change everything: personal hygiene,
college matriculation, but my arm is broken
and I have started screaming again
from the merest shift. I see now
that no one really has the use of their arms.
No one needs only one turkey sandwich.
Dan is normal, but sometimes
his talent makes him seem invulnerable.
I like that. Everybody likes that.
My fingers sag. Even the air
is more than I can lift. My soul
is not as limitless as the color green
in a forest renewed by rain.
My body feels
more shatterable in this polyester dress
meant to look like a Grecian robe but which
is clearly some factory-made shit from Macys.
My wisdom is like a coin in an inner pocket
that could not buy a candy bar at a bus stop.
The face of the man who gave Dan his suit
is soft, sad, and sweet like Georgian wine.
He gained too much weight to wear the suit
but the weight made him beautiful.
He has a noise that means: sad and funny.
He gets better the later it is, the more we’ve drunk.
For him the world should be nocturnal
and less ignorant. Young,
I failed to see that to be extraordinary
is a gift granted to everyone who is loved.
I didn’t know that what was rare and valuable
was the way one leans into the cot,
not heroic, not collapsing.
The bagel with cream cheese, the steady gait,
the one you love because he’s yours,
like a plot of land, like the moment you are born
to your weird parents
to the one in which your heart
finally gets over blood.
“Love in the Emergency Room” first appeared in Ghost City Review and is from Disappeared (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017).