Migration

March 1, 1999
Volume 16, Issue 3

Migration - Poetry of the Times

Electronic needles
jolt me half awake.
I slam the pager,
fall back to sleep
until another sting
and I startle out of bed.
Rain explodes against the windows.
The relentless pager
rips the fog like a slasher.

As I run to the car,
Hurricane Erin whips my face,
broken tree limbs,
hot wires all over the road.
I blast the radio for a millisecond
and crush it off,
head screaming for silence.
Blackness until town,
then corners ignite
in mercury vapor.
Fluorescent emergency signs,
parking lot lines
glow and waver
like lurid deep sea eels.
I wonder how I made it
into the green light
where a man writhes on a gurney
clutching his chest,
his wife a tropic of tears.
The night nurse waves me on,
gives me the smile
of trouble ahead.
My patient stands in room
Seven and a Half,
the room for the crazed and half-crazed.
Mid-twenties, golden fleece hair,
drunken vomit flecks her mouth,
bare feet, white boxer shorts,
black spaghetti strap T-shirt
fallen below gaudy breasts,
one tattooed with a butterfly.
She slurs, It's a monarch.
I find her a robe and cigarettes,
notice her bared arms,
wrists bloodied from handcuffs,
a scarlet suture line
from wrist to biceps
drawn with a razor for her husband:
He loves his truck more than me...
I am awake now
and want to know her heart.
But after three cigarettes
and an hour of drunken rambling
she screams, F- off!
All I can do is commit her.
So simple: my signature on pink paper.
I ask a nurse if I'm coherent.
Sleep/wake day/night disconnected,
ferocious hunger for a waffle
piled with strawberries.
The doors whoosh open again,
rain smacks me,
but this time I'm awake
and the rain feels warm and alive
like a personal postcard from the Caribbean.
I flip on the radio
to the surprise of jazz,
wind in the trees like brushed drum beats.
I'm laughing, scat-singing her name,
imagining monarchs flying to Costa Rica.
And when I visit her in the morning
she will pause like a one-night lover
who doesn't remember my name.
© CME LLC
4/99

Read more of Dr. Berlin's work.