While We Sleep

While We Sleep

 by Sean Patrick Leary

She has two more hours to go,
in the bowels of the city.
All that is flushed in the night
swirls through the funnel,
and she waits at the bottom
trying to catch the debris,
and sort the deposits.
They all come at once:
in the first room a premature birth
while another is dying next door,
compressions and a tracheal tube
on an unconscious man,
a morbidly obese opioid addicted woman in room five
with chest pains and a history of heart attacks,
room ten’s 19 year old mother with fluid lungs
who won’t live to see her daughter’s fourth birthday,
and the cops accompanying her to the violent man
in suicidal restraints. 

She translates for the man in the white coat, and
watches a face light at recognition of a word, then
sink with its cancerous meaning.
The doctors are urgent, all needing from her, but
she puts them on hold and searches for some food,
and a pair of shoes that fit,
for the homeless man with infected feet.
It’s okay to cry she tells him,
I would cry too if I were tired and in pain.
Then she leaves for home
where she will smile and laugh.
But alone in her car the sun has not risen,
and she cries along the way.



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