Monday, February 27, 2006

This Old Man

Old man in Tel Aviv

The doctor came to talk to John
His only visitor in the two days
That I shared a room with him

He had been admitted
The night before
Moaning and complaining
Confused and nearly deaf

He'd told the nurses
That he was going to
Call the cops and tell them
How these people were
Mistreating him

A feeble and helpless protest
By a feeble and helpless man
Who couldn't understand where he was

I never got a clear look at him
The occasional parting of curtains
Revealed only glimpses

Hunched over, and balding
Slack skinned
Paper thin and pallid

He wanted something to eat
But his intestines were twisted up
And they couldn't let him

He wanted to smoke
But you can't do that in a hospital
And he didn't have the strength to walk
To the smoking area

He wanted a whirlpool bath
But all they had were showers

He wanted some dignity
But time had already taken
That least, last commodity

He begged
He threatened
And he complained
Endlessly and pathetically

He used to be a Marine, you know

I could imagine him
Fighting for pride and country
On some hostile, distant shore

But this was a battle
That he couldn't win
Wouldn't win

The doctor spoke to him
Without having to shout

Unlike the nurses,
Who had to say everything
Three times and again

Authority has its own volume

"You will die if we don't operate
And it will be a painful death"

Even if they operated
His chances were only 1 in 5
And getting worse by the hour

In the end, he agreed
To that calm, fatalistic voice
And he was taken away to surgery

Later that day
His name was erased
From the whiteboard in the room

Photo courtesy of Giara

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