Jasmine V. Bailey

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).