Monday, May 22, 2023


 Penitent Rounds

Sometimes I’ll block out a little time

At the end of the day to round

On all my demented patients.

I wait for nurse’s shift change

When everyone is distracted, 

And then stealthily slip into the rooms

Of the lost and forgotten, the actively forgetting

Close the door behind me

Dim the lights and then I just

Start dishing dirt, spilling my guts

Like the unchewed beans caked to the front of their yellowed gowns

I don’t hold back—

About how I’ve always been 

Such a liar and a cheat

A puffed up phony who 

Who isn't worth the paper

My fancy diploma is printed on

(Although it is a nice cotton rag)

I treat it like a Catholic confessional, 

Without a priest, sans screen

I hit them with everything I know

All the lousy shit I’m mixed up in 

All the ways I’ve dishonored my name 

Then I ease up a bit—

Every round of penance does have its limits 

Prattle on about the weather

Scold them for wasting the panoramic view 

From their seventh floor window

Lying in bed all day, wink wink.
Most of them take it rather well

Some of them just lie there smiling

Like little dysenteric mute saints

Some widen their eyes in wordless joy

Some gape in horrified terror

Then there are the moaners, the agitated sundowners

The ones that surge to life with any stimulation

Aroused to a ravenous hunger for all the things they can’t remember

Scratching around in shadows for the very light that might kill them    

I whisper in those rooms, to be on the safe side,

Which makes it easier to pretend I’m actually speaking to God

Which, to be honest, is just a word for the desperate hope

Of the forlorn and lonely 

That someone is maybe listening 

I know better, of course.

This doesn’t count as a sacrament

It’s more transactional

I tell them everything they don’t need to hear

In order to feel forgiven

And they get to remember, however briefly,

That trying to live with the gnawing feeling of slowly dying 

Isn’t any easier than dying with a seizing sense

Of still being alive 


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