, April 22, 2024

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In Patient

  •   1 min read
In Patient
Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Intro by Kwame Dawes

I must admit that I leave ​“In Patient” still won­der­ing, ​“Is she alright?” I sus­pect that Erin Evans knows this, and what she wants to say is that this moment of humor, a dis­trac­tion from the thing that is feared — a hus­band check­ing his wife’s heart­beat with a stetho­scope — may, in the end, be far less impor­tant than the quirky obser­va­tion. Per­haps he is lis­ten­ing for the sound of a child’s pulse, per­haps he’s test­ing a new stetho­scope, per­haps they are just play­ing ​“doc­tor”, per­haps, perhaps.

By Erin Evans

My husband holds the cold stethoscope to my chest—
his brown eyes averted, he listens carefully,
like someone taking directions on the phone
on how to save another life.

My heart is a room full of dispatchers
waiting for those strange-hour, desperate calls,
trained to keep you on the line while help arrives.

But what he says, smiling up at me,
after he’s listened awhile is,
“I think I can hear the ocean.”

And I know he must be right—

that what he hears is some small part
of the 95% of water on earth
yet to be explored,
that there is still no word for life
that doesn’t sound like the hush of the ocean.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2022 by Erin Evans, “In Patient” from Nimrod International Journal. Volume 65. Number 2, Spring/Summer, 2022. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.

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