No Vacancy

There’s no vacancy in heaven for travellers, tonight

Those lost in the firmament, wandering through starlight,

Their bodies are trapped in hospital beds

Fluorescent lights shine on unmoving heads

But their souls are on fire, and they’re far more alive

Than they can remember (at least, in recent time)

So why does each heartbeat take more time than the last?

And why does each breath start and end with a gasp?

Where are they wandering, so far from home?

Are there comrades-in-arms, or do they wander alone?

Maybe it’s pretty, with so much to sight-see,

That they’re forgotten those below, still on bended knees

Watching so expectantly for when the end will come

Will your last breath be tonight, or are you waiting for the sun?

Why does it take so long for you to search out heaven’s gates?

Or were you there all of this time, and simply have to wait?

Some say there’s nothing after death, but I’m not sure that I agree

If there’s no quota, queue, or wait, then why’s there no vacancy?

God’s Work

The light from my heart guides my hands on their way

I wake up every morning so thankful for the day

Because each step I take is blessed from above

Every breath that I take, a holy gift filled with love

Everything that I do now is truly heaven-blessed

By the grace of God I’ve learnt to balance life and death

And, through me, scales are tilted in accordance with their fate

Whether they will pull through, or whether we came too late

By day and night God guides me here; I’m a vessel he commands

He teaches me the healing arts I don’t quite understand

In the night I float through halls, my head a blurry fog

But I know that I’m not alone, because I walk with God

And it is such a privilege to finally realise

How peace or grief can be achieved by just how someone dies!

This blessed art I now dwell in is a dream I never dreamt

I’m amongst the luckiest in the world to whom this calling’s been sent

I only hope that I can do justice to the will of God

And live each day in humility, through the grace of heaven’s love

Eyes

His eyes were closed, but I opened them

Shined a light from the tip of my pen,

Closed them again, but they wouldn’t stay

I found myself trapped in his unseeing gaze

Pupils blown up as I’d not seen before

Cold, dark, and soulless; the pen dropped to the floor

Everything I knew flew out of my head

This is what it looked like, when someone was dead

His chest didn’t move, and his eyes didn’t blink

I tested his reflexes, but not so much as a wink

I tried for a pulse, but there was nothing at all

The nurse looked in: “There’s family to call.”

So I covered the man with a clean, white sheet

Walked out of the room, as my job was complete

The phone call was short, yet it somehow seemed longer

I was embarrassed to struggle; I’d thought I was stronger

I signed the all papers and initialed the charts,

Recorded the exact time when his heart had stopped

Went back upstairs, but didn’t make it two flights

When my heart started clawing, putting up its own fight,

Banging on its chest cage, trying to come out

No idea what it wanted, but it filled me with doubt

Had I done something wrong? Was there something I’d missed?

Did he pass as he wanted? Was it just as he’d wished?

I broke down crying, in the stairwell, alone

Fumbling with buttons I couldn’t see on my phone

Just to hear a voice, to hear them tell me it’s okay

Hear them say, don’t worry, it’s another hospital day

But my fingers weren’t working, so no voice appeared

And I turned to the wall to hide my face, full of tears,

Until I’d cried it out, when I turned to the steps,

Tried to go forward, but plunged back into the depths

Of darkness, despair; I was lost in a maze

Unfamiliar and scared, a frightening craze

How could I go on, with this burden of guilt?

It was as if I’d pulled a trigger, his blood I’d spilt

I knew it was nonsense, in the back of my head,

But nonsense is convincing, when the subject is death!

So I took a deep breath and tried to calm down

Forced away guilt; otherwise, I’d drown

I thought of my mother, who holds her head high,

She knows how it feels to watch someone die

But she never falters, she can stay strong

When others are lost, she helps them carry on

And then I thought of the others still in my care

And my teammates and students. They needed me there.

There’d be time for tears, but this wasn’t it

Get my head back in the game, had no time to just sit

So I ran back upstairs, only five minutes late

Rounds had just started; we were on bed #8

Thus my day continued, and I carried on

Forcing myself to, somehow, stay strong

This is the cycle, when somebody dies,

Stay strong, move on — and don’t look into their eyes

Angel of Death

Deep in the night, I float through the halls,

The Angel of Death, by some I am called,

My thoughts are a dream, and a misty gaze coats

Every glance, every look; the dim light turns morose

Wherever I go, death seems to follow

The bitterest truth, though it’s not easy to swallow

Deep in the bowels of a hospital ward

Or in my own bed, gripping the headboard,

I hear its soft growl as it prowls through the air

Seeking its prey, seeking to cause despair

Such is the life of my shadow, my friend,

My one true constant, a beloved life’s end.

So be wary of my presence, lest you yourself find

Your Life and Death inseparably intertwined

I don’t try to do it, but it’s a mistake I repeat

So run while you can, lest Death your presence seeks

A Difference of Tongues

I hold the hand of a frightened man

As he asks me questions I don’t understand

¿Qué pasa aquí? ¿Qué van a hacer?

The other patients point, whisper, and stare

The hospital’s busy for a midnight on call

We dodge carts and nurses as we rush through the halls

But when we arrive, we find the OR packed

They’ve been briefed on the accident: two dead on impact

The patient we have speaks not a word of English

Nor any other language which I can distinguish

But I can taste his fear, it’s a contagious thing,

I look all around, try to think of something

When a girl approaches; she’s no older than twenty

By her scrubs she’s a student, of which we have many

So I don’t know her name, or her year, or her role,

But she takes the patient’s hand, gentle and slow,

And whispers, Hola, señor. Me llamo Maria.

Está en el hospital. Necesita la cirugía.

The patient calms at her words, as if they came from an angel

His vitals relax into something more stable

I draw up medications and lay out the surgeons’ knives

Adjust the bed height and the overhead lights

But a few words were all he needed for comfort to be had

A familiar sound amid chaos was the best sedative we had

Surrender

no flight, don’t fight. just relax, and it’s over

don’t feel it, don’t hear it. he’s not even sober

go limp, go loose, let your mind disappear

and it’s over, all over. wipe off your tears

open your eyes, eyes that you don’t recall closing

what’s done is done, there’s no sense in opposing

the memory, the taste, the stench in your throat

you’re sinking, you’re drowning, but still somehow afloat

you’re gasping, you’re rasping. all the air’s gone

it’s his fault, it’s your fault. where did it go wrong?

reliving, replaying, you spiral to shame

you hate him, you fear him, you can’t remember his name

all alone, every day, you can try to move on

but you feel him beside you, long after he’s gone

while it might be better sometimes to let them have their way

no one ever warns you how the memories stay

and it’s not easy to forget, when you can’t help but remember

that night when you died, laid your arms down, and surrendered

Tired

So tired my eyes they burn with the weight

Of one thousand nights I’ve stayed up too late

And my bones groan, too, from the weight they’ve borne

A tired heart’s heavy, weepy, forlorn

And everything’s fuzzy inside of my head

I’m too tired for sleep, yet I still go to bed

And there I lie dreaming without closing my eyes

I see demons and monsters flash through the sky

And then, without tears, I cry for no reason

My body betrays me. I’d hang it for treason

But it hangs limp already. I’ve no strength to stand

Yet on and on I putter, searching for some safe place to land

Assault

so that’s what they call it

when he touches you

even though you said no

even though you didn’t want to

there’s a word for it, small

but it leaves a big impression

but i am no a victim

i will not be made a ‘victim’

i am strong, it doesn’t bother me

and i don’t want to complain

or cause trouble it’s not like i’m

pregnant

or anything

i just want to forget

maybe if i forget it will be like

it never happened

if i don’t say anything

if i keep quiet

no one will know

so sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

i didn’t hear anything

did you?

Personal Hell

The bells rang out as the music swelled

Welcome, they sang, to your Personal Hell

I never knew that they sang as a matter of course

I was overjoyed to be here. I’d screamed myself hoarse.

But the demons emerge when you’re the least on edge

And leave you defenceless. With no proof, you allege

The crimes they commit, but they just laugh at you,

Saying you should have known what you’d gotten into

And it was my dream, once, and a lovely dream, too

I can still hear them ringing, even though I don’t want to

They sing in the dark, when nothing’s going well

Welcome, the bells sing, to your Personal Hell

Lead Turned to Gold

Like a thunderbolt they came, the feelings of old

Returning with a vengeance, lead turned to gold

Feelings I’d forgotten until they re-bloomed

They grew stronger and stronger, and I was consumed

And sometimes I think it’s too heavy to bear

Why am I doing this? It doesn’t seem fair

That I should sweat buckets over one little word

It’s irrational, illogical, altogether absurd!

But the heart knows no reason when the head’s in a tizzy

So I shelf my feelings, and try to keep busy

It’s a minor distraction, a temporary escape,

Disguising reality with a bit of duct tape

And though I might cry rivers when it’s over, for now,

I’ll stay calm and composed (or, at least, I’ll try to figure out how)