Sons, when i was a nurse on the medical floor

Sons

When I care for an elderly man in the hospital
and the son comes to pick up his father
I see how the father’s relationship with suffering
and laughter and hope amidst pain

has transmitted to the younger.
Has he preached to the son and did
the son decide to digest the sermon
or choose other gods?

85% of the time the mythology remains unbroken:
if the father pulls on the lines keeping him alive with disgust
and frustration, the son will rail on about the traffic
and the parking.

If the father jokes about how the surgery for his bladder
didn’t make his manhood grow, as was promised,
the son will confess that the surgery did not make
his father mute, as was promised.

But there are those sons who either have chewed
on their own dark tobacco until it has blistered their fingers
or have drank from the shine of decent friends
until they are buoyant.

So I remember, most times, how to interact with my God
in front of my daughter, and now my son.
I don’t ever want to see them curse
all the gifts in their hands.
when i was a nurse on the medical floor

i loved to joke with many of my patients
but one in particular would always have the raunchiest
gems ready for me when i arrived in his room—
the one about the nun and the camel
or the walrus and the seal
and his wife had dirtier ones than him
as she chuckled in the corner

something happened i cannot remember (or tell)
but he stopped being able to talk or move for about a week
and i had to crush his meds and squirt them down
a feeding tube taped in his nostril as he searched me
for signs of humor or news or a crack in the ice
which had taken him and i could not summon
any light and averted my eyes
pushing buttons on iv pumps

he went to icu and miraculously came back
in a few days still unable to talk but able to eat
and sit upright his wife grinning
with a seahawks blanket in the lounge-chair
and when he saw me his eyes begged for me
to act normal even if he couldn’t so i half yelled
Oh it’s you! and flipped him off
and he laughed and snorted

and mustered enough strength
to raise his finger and lift it straight up
at me until i didn’t know if i was laughing or crying
his wife just clapped her hands and squealed
and every time i walked in he would
dig one finger out of his sheets for me
until one day he actually whispered
Fuck you!

Fuck you! Fuck you!
and i couldn’t speak but just smiled open-skulled
and wet his wife looked like she had been baptized
her mascara dripping down like holy blood
and god shook my arms and i replied
Well, fuck you too!

Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN in the Seattle area. In former lives he taught high school, managed aquatic centers, and practiced acupuncture. He has four books of poetry: The only thing that makes sense is to grow (Moon Tide, 2019), Mr. Rogers kills fruit flies (Main St. Rag, 2020), These Hands of Myrrh (Kelsay Books, 2021), and Sea of Marrow (Ethel Press, 2021). He has two books upcoming in 2022: fishmirror from Alien Buddha Press and Skinless in the Cereal Aisle from Impspired.

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