A SESTINA OF BAD NEWS
“There are more important things I should be doing at the age of forty-two”,
you say, showing me photos of your daughter in a pink, fluffy tutu and I
list potential risks of self discharge including the possibility of death,
make follow up plans and try to listen and make an effort to write
it all down for you so you can read it at home and make notes of
any questions you have that you hadn’t thought to ask at the time.
I see your pale eyes glaze over when we meet the next time,
and I answer questions you don’t really want the answer to,
the box of tissues conveniently placed just within reach of
the tremulous hand that wipes your wet, drowning eye.
Your other hand tightly grips a pen as you try to write
it all in a journal you carry. We don’t mention death.
The next time, you do ask me about death.
I tell you I can’t give you a specific time.
You say there’s a book you want to write
and that “my youngest is only two”.
I see you look at your partner and I
know that I only see a snapshot of
your life. And you’re scared of
what happens after your death.
Your eyes are glazed when I
admit you that final time;
you bring your journal to
the ward, but never write.
The next time I write
“Systolic BP of
The next time:
Your daughter in the pink tutu is all I can think of
as I write the medical certificate of the cause of death,
and give the time and date, and the age of forty-two.