These are admittedly older poems once-published, but they are the best I can offer at the moment for the reasons I explained, that contests and publications insist that any poem one sends to them never have appeared anywhere else before, including on the internet. Needless to say this is a major bummer, since my blog can hardly count as publication nor pose as wide distribution, seeing as how I get maybe 100 hits max a day (mark you, all, including you, my loyal lurkers, are oh so valuable to me, and if you remain my site’s only visitors, so be it. At least you are there and if so, that will be enough for me.)
The first poem describes a real, which is to say, factual incident that happened to me some years ago, while the second concerns, as may be obvious, a complete fantasy, but one embedded in the real exercise of learning CPR. I describe it literally, as it was taught back in the 80s without so much as a dummy to practice on. I will continue to add others, either at the end or later, if I can find others that have already been published, or that I am certain I will not try for. For now, I hope these have some merit, despite their age.
POEM FOR REGINALD
It is winter, four o’clock in the afternoon.
A drunk, not yet dead on his feet,
accosts me, says,
“Hey, are you a college girl?”
I am not a student anymore—
It has been years since I went by bells
from room to room,
scribbled frantic exams
in booklets bound in blue.
I look young, I know that. My hair is not
yet gray, and perhaps that is why
he asks the question.
“I read books, too,” he tells me,
falling into step beside me
though he had met me coming the opposite way
and I am hurrying to be out of Dutch Point by nightfall.
He walks me all the way up to Main Street.
accompanying me through the backyards of tenements
past lounging men who might have wished me
less than well.
Though he insists on staying on my right side
like a gentleman, some primitive fear
urges me to shift my purse
to my left shoulder.
He is a genius he tells me, and I believe him
But he is an alcoholic and his breath smells
as if he has been drinking.
Still, I am not afraid of him
and when he asks, I tell him my name.
There is something sad about him.
He says he thinks I can cure him,
could marry him.
His name is Reginald.
He speaks like an old friend
and suddenly I am lonely too.
That is all. There is no moral to this tale.
I am thirty-five, single, childless, and lonely as a drunk
offering me company at Christmastide.
We come to my building. He leans closer.
When he hugs me
I hold on tight.
ON LEARNING CPR, 1986
So many things can go wrong
and it is surely a wonder
we live at all.
Playing dead, my partner, my spouse
does not answer when I
jostle him at the shoulder
speak his name
and I in more terror
than my own body needs
this being a dry run
and he healthy as apples.
But he has taken on
the “death-like appearance”
necessary for this role
and I must act,
pretending dexterity and expertise
when my own heart
threatens to shudder and fail
if I can’t get it right.
According to the booklet
the Red Cross has given us,
brain damage occurs
after four minutes without
oxygen. It is up to me.
And so I do as I must,
feigning compressions of his chest
making his heart beat for me
at the rhythm I choose.
I scarcely brush his lips
with my own in pretended ventilation,
but breathe on his cheek
and scout his chest
for signs of life returning
So much I have taken for granted—
I am scared by the awful fragility
in the balance of one life before me.
Then miraculously, he revives.
I can see his chest rise and fall.
I feel a pulse in his neck
and moist air on my cheek and ear.
“Thanks, love,” he whispers,
with a smile no one else sees
and sits up.
It is over.
But tonight while he sleeps
I will count his breaths.
I will touch the pulse in his neck
gently, gently. I will know
the miracle when I see it.