Touch: The Journal of Healing


Night Shift

    by Ed Bennett

This is not a lover’s night,

no velvet darkness cradling the room,

no kiss exchanged beneath benign elements;

tonight is blackness, constriction,

my breath drawn in shallow packets

as I listen to the drug stoked breathing

of my broken patient.

This night, one of many,

when I begin my reach into hell

in hope of finding his soul.

Nineteen and handsome,

shoulders broad enough

to carry the hopes and aspirations

of a family who granted everything

except love,

cursed and lamented to every saint

when he came out to them,

ignored the weeping in his room

until he stopped, hopefully

coming to his senses.

Until they saw the blood congealing

and vacant eyes still wet with tears,

they brought him in out of duty

hoping his flaws could be addressed,

like a car towed in and placed on a lift.

A surgeon wrapped his sutured wrists

while I ordered meds and admission,

took a self-serving history

from the many voices of the family

confused by his blood, his trauma, his sex.

They asked if I could help him

and I wonder what they refer to:

loss of blood?


or this “thing” that queered him,

unknown, unnamed, uncomfortable

to speak of except in blind circles

with no one at fault, no one accepting,

until I am confused

because they tell me nothing.

Alone, I must calculate a life,

plan a talking cure

with psychotropic assistance

while they expect me

to put his emotional shards together

like a parlor mirror broken

in a drunken rage.

They are uninitiated to what I see:

one cannot cure what is absent,

one cannot address the absence of love.

Twenty years in school,

twenty years in a white coat

casting about like I have the answers

to every irrational puzzle presented.

They think I stand between normal and not,

defending society as it is and shall be

but it is never that way at all:

I am Dante on a barque in a sinner’s sea

forbidden direct communication,

forced to look into their pleading eyes.

Satan rows tonight in place of Charon;

the river flows beyond my sight

bounteous with the screams of the afflicted

increased by one

who sleeps beneath my jaded gaze

dreamless from the touch of medication.

No lovers this night for either of us

in the bitter elixir of this shadowed room.

Tomorrow I will try to read the cipher,

learn what they cannot see,

give what they cannot.

© 2010 Ed Bennett

Ed Bennett is a Telecommunications Engineer living in Las Vegas. Originally from New York City, his work has appeared in the Manhattan Quarterly and The Patterson Literary Review, New Verse News, The Externalist, Philadelphia Poets, Quill and Parchment, Autumn Sky Poetry and Touch: The Journal of Healing.


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Touch: The Journal of Healing

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