Witness


So at last I write, although I do feel a little at odds with the fact that my creativity came at the cost it did. I don’t usually write from reality, even those pieces that depict real situations are still just purely the result of my imagination. This is something real that happened to me yesterday while I was waiting with my girlfriend while her mom was being admitted to the ER for breathing issues. I don’t know why these things happen, but the events left such a strong mark in my mind that I had to get them out and down. There are parts of this piece I really like, but others that fall flat in my eyes but as always I will put this up warts and all and see what people have to say.

They wheeled him past me
Purple face over soft, fish belly pale gut
No TV drama shouts or frantic scrambling
Just sedate speed in near silence
Suddenly engulfed by the curtained off ER room.

I stood there in the blank hospital corridor
A witness, nothing more
I was there for someone else
Just happened to be in that place
At that particular moment
Watching as the hospital chaplain approached
Knowing as her professionally kind yet stern face
turned into that room
That I had just been a few feet away
As a man just died.

I didn’t know him
Don’t know who he was, what kind of man
Good, bad, or just the same mix as most of us
Hoping the right acts might cancel the sins
As we all muddle through
I don’t know him
Yet his passing lingers.

Maybe ten minutes later, maybe more
After comings and goings
All the machines wheeled in then out
Orderlies, nurses, doctors faces
All the same expression
Sad yet resigned in a kind of professional grief
That always seems to make all such attendants
Drab and grey when surrounded by soft beeps and harsh lights
After all of them, the family came.

Two women, both grown, one older, one younger
I didn’t know them either
I hung my head, I didn’t want to look
Yet my eyes caught each of theirs
Just for one second and I was a witness again
It was the elder that held my attention
Not crying, not yet
A frail patina of strength trembling fragile little bird like
Steps taken forward with painful reluctant inevitability
Hope slowing each next one to divide the distance between
A doubt clung to with failing fingers and certainty
Into Xeno’s arrow fractions, always a little closer
But not quite yet.

I felt ashamed, embarrassed to be witness
In that one fleeting glimpse
Seeing a perfect stranger oh so much more than naked
Bare and open as any other wound
Bright red gash bleeding painful sharp
Amidst the flat white and glass.

I turned away in a pathetic, feeble gift of privacy
It was the best I could do
In the face of such terrible openness
As the chaplain lead them both stately serene
Behind the curtain
I counted as they disappeared
One, two, three
Their sudden sobs put a fistful of knives in my gut.

I didn’t know them any more than I knew him
Yet in that moment I wanted to reach out
Even just to say I was sorry
Sorry that I was a witness
Sorry that I was there and closer to his death than she had been
Sorry that is heart stopped and broke theirs
Sorry that the only thing I could offer their grief was fucking sorry.
I just couldn’t bridge the gulf between us
Couldn’t reach her over being a stranger
I just stood there longing and helpless witness
To her helpless grief.

Maybe that is the best we can be sometimes,
A witness, a subtle lightning rod
Drawing away the sharp strikes of pain
Taking just a little if it with us as we pass each other
Something human and shared to spare each of us the full brunt
Tying us together with tiny crimson threads
The light that falls through the rain.

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3 Responses to “Witness”

  1. “Steps taken forward with painful reluctant inevitability”….I love that…nice piece friend.

  2. witnessToo Says:

    find the survivors
    perform a random act of compassion
    offer these words in condolence

  3. Well done. You can feel that it is real.

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