POETRY OF THE TIMES
I urgently search for a pulse
thinking heart attack, stroke,
when she comes around— groggy,
disoriented, heartbeat as slow as
this play’s last act. I lay her down,
offer sips of water like an 18th century
doctor whose only tools are comfort
and kindness, until Modern Medicine
enters on cue, costumed as a pair
of EMTs with props of oxygen,
IVs and telemetry, walkies squawking
when they exit to the ambulance.
The house manager high fives me
with a smile and dims the lights,
the star reclaims the spotlight, two fingers pressed to her neck
as if searching for a carotid pulse
frozen for a beat before her theatrical
nod breaks the tension. A phone rings
on stage like a flashback and we return
to our fantasy that characters can die
and revive, that the show must go on,
and there’s always a doctor in the house.
Dr Berlin is Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.