What    They    Gave

     His lung was filling with water
     like a river rising in an underground cavern.
     The doctors gave him all sorts of things:

     a respirator, a feeding tube, and restraints
     so he wouldn't remove them.  They gave

     him a free haircut and a shave, his beard
     of twenty years sacrificed to make space
     for his face mask.  They even gave

     him a prognosis of about a week, 
     but not morphine, for fear he would get

     addicted.  They gave us a family
     reunion: siblings, cousins, grandchildren,
     all sleeping, waking, pacing together

     in the hospital waiting room.  What they gave
     themselves was practice - experiments

     with different drugs, an intern who tubed
     the wrong lung, a chance to show off
     their sympathy.  Daily they untied him,

     massaged his wrists, gave him paper
     and crayon so he could send messages

     to his loved ones.  Pain, he wrote
     instead, in large shaky letters.  Water.
     And later, smaller, Please.

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