STEPHEN STEINHAUS

BOOK OF BRUISES  (ROOM 503)


"Diabetes is just that devastating of a disease",
The Doctor says as we stand in Critical Care Unit, room 503.
I glare at him, battling the urge to strike out, trying to understand.
I stare at him, into the nothingness of his pupils, all black.
Then I turn to you, racked across your white bed,
And I can read your body like a Book of Bruises.

When I was kid, I was fascinated by my own bruises,
You were with me then, you tried to understand.
My need to charge and tackle Dad on the count of three
The hurt, the soreness was fun; no death, no disease
In a purple bump on the hip from jumping off the bed,
Or a stubbed foot toenail slowing turning black.

But now, I want to beat this doctor blue and black.
To make him feel the hurt of all of our bruises.
Does he even know what its like for you trapped in that bed?
Or how it feels to have a troubled family reduced to three.
Oh no, he is a specialist in this disease ..
But I've seen his eyes ... he will not understand.

But how can I expect anyone to understand
What its like to watch your feet burn red to black?
With every viable vein lost, save three.
Your whole body a monument, a testament to this disease.
I cannot keep my eyes from your jaundiced bruises.
I cannot keep my eyes from your septic bed.

So I hulk and hover over you - keep watch over your  bed.
Like the way you would pour over my little cuts and bruises.
Sigh over the knees of my jeans ... grass-green and blood-black.
As I slid into the house just after half-past three.
Now I am beginning to appreciate you, to understand.
And, still, it will not take you - I will not give you to this disease.

Powerless to stop the bleeding, or any manifestation of your disease.
Every free minute I will spend at the side of your bed.
I don't care how long it takes, my plane doesn't leave until three.
So I will be your doctor and your nurse, none of them understand.
And when I tend to the bleeding from last week's IV bruise-
I will see that, soon, too, your fingers will turn black.

It must be the guilt, my leaving, that turns my thoughts black.
I would be a healthy donor, but they say no, I don't understand.
I must accept this helplessness, that you can't hear me from your bed.
Nothing I do or say now can stop this, help the pain, heal your bruises.
You cannot see me now, will not see your very first grandchild turn 3.
You will remain at the mercy of your disease.

I know now I could not stop your disease,
    but part of me will never understand.
With every cloud comes a cloud of black,
    remembering you stricken in that bed.
As I remember reading you, like a Book of Bruises,
    letting the pages fade in Room 503.

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