“3.6 Red Count at Grant ER” by Rose M. Smith

for J.K.S.

A young blonde woman across the way,
wrist in a stubborn brace, waits for supermen
who knit muscle and tendon back together.
Patient as water in a pool, she holds vigil
as her companion sits sleeping.
We are all afraid to ask her how she cut them.
Her fiancé sits elbow to knee, head forward in his hands.
The other side:  Elderly curtain mate chatter,
her words like heavy raindrops hitting a fan in summer,
sprays of hated helplessness ejected into open
space searching for a place to land.
Jamie longs for sleep the way this woman longs
for company—not space enough for both
prisoners in this same small room.
As often as the seasons change, Jamie's heart,
three times as old as the years it has beaten,
flutters in a gear not normal.  Her whole body
rocks with each labored rush of too-thin red.
We resign ourselves to lingering
in halls of trauma once again, this haven full
of white-robed saints at the city's center.
The ER doctor spits quick instruction
through a facade of care, but we can tell:
He does not want to be here.
We do not want to be here.
Armed with learning, he will make his best
educated guesses as lives around him
race toward finish lines, arms outstretched,
heaving chests breaking the wide, taught tape.

Rose M. Smith’s work has appeared in The Examined Life, pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, Naugatuck River Review, Snapdragon, Minola Review, Main Street Rag, The Pedestal Magazine, Passager and other journals and anthologies including 50/50, Poems & Translations by Womxn Over 50. She is author of four chapbooks, most recently Holes in My Teeth (Kattywompus Press, 2016) and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her collection, Unearthing Ida, won the 2018 Lyrebird Prize from Glass Lyre Press. She is a Senior Editor with Pudding Magazine and has served several years with Ohio Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud program. Rose is an IT requirements analyst by day and completed a fellowship with Cave Canem Foundation in 2015.