Ed Bennett

Night Shift

This is not a lover’s night,
no velvet darkness cradling the room,
no kiss exchanged beneath benign elements;
tonight is blackness, constriction,
my breath drawn in shallow packets
as I listen to the drug-stoked breathing
of my broken patient.
This night, one of many,
when I begin my reach into hell
in hope of finding his soul.

Nineteen and handsome,
shoulders broad enough
to carry the hopes and aspirations
of a family who granted everything
except love,
cursed and lamented to every saint
when he came out to them,
ignored the weeping in his room
until he stopped, hopefully
coming to his senses.

Until they saw the blood congealing
and vacant eyes still wet with tears,
they brought him in out of duty
hoping his flaws could be addressed,
like a car towed in and placed on a lift.
A surgeon wrapped his sutured wrists
while I ordered meds and admission,
took a self-serving history
from the many voices of the family
confused by his blood, his trauma, his sex.

They asked if I could help him
and I wonder what they refer to:
loss of blood?
or this “thing” that queered him,
unknown, unnamed, uncomfortable
to speak of except in blind circles
with no one at fault, no one accepting,
until I am confused
because they tell me nothing.

Alone, I must calculate a life,
plan a talking cure
with psychotropic assistance
while they expect me
to put his emotional shards together
like a parlor mirror broken
in a drunken rage.
They are uninitiated to what I know:
one cannot cure what is absent,
one cannot address the absence of love.

Twenty years in school,
twenty years in a white coat
casting about like I have the answers
to every irrational puzzle presented.
They think I stand between normal and not,
defending society as it is and shall be
but it is never that way at all:
I am Dante on a barque in a sinner’s sea
forbidden direct communication,
forced to look into their pleading eyes.

Satan rows tonight in place of Charon;
the river flows beyond my sight
bounteous with the screams of the afflicted
increased by one
who sleeps beneath my jaded gaze
dreamless from the touch of medication.
No lovers this night for either of us
in the bitter elixir of this shadowed room.
Tomorrow I will try to read the cipher,
learn what they cannot see,
give what they cannot.

Ed Bennett is a Telecommunications Engineer living in Las Vegas and is a Staff Editor of Quill and Parchment. Originally from New York City, his work appeared in The Patterson Literary Review, The Externalist, Quill and Parchment, and Touch: The Journal of Healing. In March of this year The Lives You Touch Press published his chapbook, “A Transit of Venus”.