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Taylor St Onge Nov 2018
I watched a man die from a distance the other night at work.  
He was a patient on my unit,
                                                    a BOP, a bedded outpatient.  
Came in for a routine procedure, it ran long, so they
stuck him in a bed overnight for observation and
discharged him the next afternoon.  

Came back three days later.  
Valve exploded in his chest.  
Transferred to CVICU.  
Coded twice.  

The first code was cancelled almost immediately.  
False alarm.  Critical condition, but not a code.  
The second code they called dragged on and on and on.  

I know this because someone pulled him up on the telemetry monitor by our nurse’s station, and we watched him flatline, watched him asystole, watched his heart at zero and zero and zero.  Watched them bag him, give manual respirations.  Watched the forced waves on his flat rhythm from each compression.  Every palm to sternum.  Every electric shock caused a wave and then fell flat.  Zero.  Zero.  Zero.  Absolute zero.  Like in space or whatever.  So cold.  No life, no movement.  Zero, just zero.  Flatline.  Asystole.  No life possible, no life attainable.  
I watched him die from a distance.  From two floors above on a computer monitor.  Secondhand death.

They stopped compressing,
                                                    stopped bagging,
                                                                                   and he stopped existing.  
Became stagnant, static.  No longer
held in the balance, in the limbo,
in the purgatory between life and death.  
                                                        ­                    He crossed over and
                                                             ­             stayed at absolute zero.  

I never met him, just knew of him, so
                                                              wh­at does that mean for me?  
                                                           ­   What am I supposed to do with
           the knowledge that many of the patients I come in contact with
                          die sometimes very soon after I meet them?  

Most things I touch die.  Plants, fish, hamsters, my mother.  
We can’t spare everyone, that’s stupid.  There is
a natural order to things.  Darwinism.  Survival of the fittest.  
                                        All that *******.  

When my mother landed herself in the ICU, we knew
                                                   where she wanted her money to go, but
                not what we were supposed to do with all this ******* grief.  
                Not what to do with her body.  
                Not if we should keep her on life support to
                                                                ­                  drag out the suffering.  
She gave no directions on how to live without a mother.  

(But how do you direct something like that?
An idea so big, so lofty that directions will always fall short.)

The grief cycle will
                                     always fall short.  
Most days I don’t think acceptance is truly possible.  

Some days I’m there, and others I’m not.  
                                                          ­          It’s not linear, it’s not stagnant.  
                                                     ­                       It’s not absolute zero.  
It moves back and forth and
                                               becomes the snake eating its own tail.  
                                                         ­           Ouroboros.  

Where do you go from here?  How do you truly move on?  

I’m falling through a gas giant.  Nothing keeps hold here,
                                                         nothing keeps score (but the body).  

It’s 5:27 in the morning and I’m thinking
                                                 about that man that flatlined again.
Zero on the telemetry monitors, no heart rhythm, asystole. Spike for compression.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.  The body gets cold when there is no more blood pumping, no more heartbeat, no more brain waves; nothing to keep it warm.  Blood slowly slinks down to the lowest bend.  Becomes a bruise on the skin.  Absolute zero is the coldest theoretical temperature. No movement possible.  So cold, atoms cannot move.  Electrons cannot hum.  
                                                        The body becomes this. No life possible.
don't ya'll love this heavy **** I force onto you
Taylor St Onge Nov 2018
I am not very good at saying no to people,
                              or at being firm and direct with my patients at work.  
           I am soft and mandible.  
           I tend to let people take advantage of me.  

My physical therapist says the people with the most problems
with their hips and backs are
                                                        the ones that can          
                                                        hardly bend at all or
                                                                                                 that can
                                       bend              too             much.

I am too flexible.  
                              So much so that it is hurting me.  
                                    I fold and I fold and I fold
                                               in on myself like origami and
                                      I let people do whatever they want.  
I can't remember if I've always been this way or not.  

Maybe it depends on how you look at it:  
The woman in the casket could either be sleeping or dead.  She could either be a stranger or my mother.  This could either be the bright, multi-color, kaleidoscopic shapes I see when I rub my eyes a bit too hard for a bit too long, or it could be the dull, grey morgue her body was wheeled down to after they tied the tag around her toe and zipped her into a white bag.  This could either hurt a lot or a little.  It depends on how much you let in.  How willing you are to bend to the emotional blow.  I could either stop writing about this or keep going, but it's been, what, nine years now, and I haven't been able to stop yet—
only able to bend and
                                          bend
                 ­                                      and
                                                                    bend
                                                                                    and
this took way too long to finish
Taylor St Onge Dec 2017
If you're a patient in a hospital, wouldn't you want to know
exactly how many people have died in the room
                                                                 you're currently sleeping in?    
                           How many hearts have stopped beating, how many
                                                               lungs have deflated, how many
pupils have stopped responding to light—
                                                          ­                 how long CPR was
                                                                ­             performed before
                                                                ­            Time     of     Death
                                                           ­                       was called?
How many DNR patients waltzed into the afterlife
without so much as a half-hearted chest compression?

Ribs can break during CPR.
How many cracked ribs have echoed
                                                                ­  across the walls of your
                                                                ­            hospital room?

                                                           x

Eve was made from Adam's rib.
God plucked the bone and
                                                                ­                  fashioned it into a
                                                                ­             subservient woman to
                                                                ­               replace the wild one,
                                                                   the first one, the no good one,
                                     the woman made from the same soil as Adam:
      Lilith.

                                                           x

We break ribs, break wishbones, break most things we don't understand. A confused patient will take out his IV, his PICC line, even pull at his chest tube or his LVAD driveline.
If it doesn't make sense, we will try to eliminate it in the sake of
                                                                ­                               normality.

                      ­                                     x

Some time in August, we had two codes within one hour.  After 30 or so minutes of chest compressions, they pronounced the second man dead.  He wasn’t my patient that night, and I didn’t know him.  I think his ribs snapped under Alyssa’s hands when she tried to revive him.
                                                            ­      And what does that feel like?   Not just the desperate rush of adrenaline,
        of trying to bring someone back to life—not just the emotional,
                                                                ­           but the physical of it all.

The cracking of the bone beneath the heels of your hands.  
Your fingers laced on top of each other
                                                                ­ pounding and
                                  pounding and
                                                                ­                                  pounding
                                                           against the sternum.  
One, two.  One, two.  One, two.  
                                                          ­            The bone cleaves in half.
And how much pressure does it take?  
I’m sure science could tell us, but
                              how does it feel in your arms, in your shoulders—
                       will your muscles remember the strength it takes and
                                                      stop you next time?

                                                           x

How hard did God have to try when he ripped out
         Adam's rib to make Eve? And
                           how long did it take Adam to recover from the loss?
(Maybe he never did.)

                                                           x

Healthcare is still so barbaric.  You must hurt to help.  
                               Saw through the sternum to get to the heart.  
                 Insert a painful tube to remove the excess fluid.  
                             Drill through the skull and remove
                        potentially useful brain matter.

I have nightmares of tripping over IV tubing and
ripping out PICC lines.   I am terrified of
dropping someone's chest tube on the floor,
                                                 of it ripping violently out of their lungs.
It's not my blood, it's some else's,
                                               and that makes it so much worse.  
                    Being responsible for another human's well-being
                                             is actually terrifying.

I just want to be helpful.  I don’t want to hurtful.  But so often,
                                         I find myself damaging the ones I love.

                                                           x

I would rather have my brain-dead sternum sawed open than
rot in some hole in the ground like my mother if it
                                                        would mean that I could be useful.
                                                   And all we really want is to be useful.
To feel something.  To be something.  
To be proud like the original sin.

Remove my ribs.  All 24 of them.  
Make them into several new women with
several new names and
                                           faces and
                                                            eye colors and
                       skin colors.
Their lives would be more beneficial than my death ever could be.

Like Eve with Lilith, replace the bad, with the seemingly good.  
                                                         Replace the soil with the body.
                                                  It all has to come from somewhere.  

                                                           x

                     How to keep the self close and yet distant from trauma.
part of a larger work based on my work as a cna in a hospital
Taylor St Onge Aug 2016
If the Sacred Fire of Vesta went out, it meant one of two things:
             meant
1. Rome was in danger;
                                                  meant
2. A Vestal ******, a guardian of the flame, was having ***.  
Chastity                                      and                                       fire
are two attributes that are directly correlated.  If one is lost,
the other will follow.  Trust me.  This is fact:
                                                                ­                 only ****** women
                                                                ­                   can be celebrated.

The ****** Mary,
                                    the ****** goddesses,
                                                      ­                       the way **** was seen as a crime
                                                           ­               against the father, not the daughter:
                            women
                     ­         must
                            remain
                ­              pure.  

Do not eat the pomegranate seeds,
do not touch the fruit of knowledge.  A
                                                   ­                    statue of a young boy
                                                             ­              holding an apple
                                               does not hold
                                        the same connotation
as a woman holding an apple.  Offering it to a man who
could have refused.  Getting blamed for the fall from Eden.  

                           A woman
with a snake draped around her body is not Eve,
is Lilith, but it’s close enough.  They are both to blame for
all the evils of the world, so what does it really matter anyway?  Women
are more susceptible to wavering in their faith in God,
to worshipping the devil, to practicing witchcraft—

            The flames are out.  Rome is not safe.  A “******” is buried
            alive for her sin.  Lilith is slaughtering women in childbirth.  
            Babies  are  dying.   A  man  is  celebrated  for  his  multiple
            lovers.   ****  shaming  in  79  AD.    The  beds   in   Pompeii
            brothels are made of stone.   St.  Cecilia  is  face  down in the
            dirt.   Women on the same level as slaves,  if not lower.  The
                                     goddess Vesta as a housewife.
Written for my Rome chapbook in January.
Taylor St Onge May 2016
After my mother died, my room was filled with roses.  When the flowers died, my room was filled with their sweet, rotten stench for weeks on end; it sunk into my pores and into my DNA and years later, I still smell like dead roses.
                                                       My sister confuses this smell with dead lilies.

A bouquet of red roses was placed atop my mother’s coffin as it lowered six
feet down into the earth.  After the roses died, I wonder if my mother could
smell them like I did?  I wonder if she still smells them, or, more likely, how long it took for the roses to disintegrate into dust like her?  

We don’t talk about the body after death because we don’t like to be reminded of how vulnerable we really are. In high school, a boy asked me to prom using roses and lilies that were all different shades of reds and oranges and yellows like fire.  Lilies like funerals and tombstones and formaldehyde.

I don’t think he meant to remind me of death.  I don’t think his intention was to place me in a casket similar to my mother’s with its pink padded walls.  I don’t think he realized that’s where I went when I saw his basement covered in bouquets of hellfire.  I think he meant the roses to be romantic,

but I looked at them and saw my mother’s putrefying face, saw her intestines eaten away by savage bacteria and bugs, saw her eyelids drying out and peeling back like black and dead and withered lily petals.  Embalming does not prevent decomposition, only prolongs it.  I have embalmed my mother's
memory in the shape of a teal notebook.  I cannot tell if it has
                                                                       begun to decay or not.
wrote this for my adv poetry.  it started out as an experimental villanelle, but hellopoetry messed with my formatting :/
Taylor St Onge Mar 2016
After My Little Black Dog Died of Melanoma.
After the Lumps on Her Small Brittle Body Slowly
Burned to a Pile of Ash in the Vet’s Office.  After My Step-Father
Drove in His Ostentatious Truck to Pick Up Her Remains.  After I Cried
in My Dorm Room and Tried Not to Wake My Roommate.  
Realization that My Loss Does Not Make Me Different.  There Are
Graveyards That Span For Miles and They Are Filled With More
Dead Bodies Than I Have Ever Seen.  There Are Hundreds of
Thousands of Children in the Foster Care System That Have
Never Met Their Parents or Maybe They Did and it Just Didn’t Work Out.
Kids Who Might Have Lived With Their Terminally Ill Parent(s) For Years
Not Just Days.  Kids Who Never Sat in the Opened Up Trunk of Their
Mother’s Black Nissan Pathfinder at the Drive-In Movies.  Kids Who Lived Too Far From Their Too Old Grandparents or Who Lived Too Far From Their Too Dead Grandparents.  Kids Who Were Never Told Not to Throw Snowballs Because There Might be Big Chunks of Ice in Them.  Kids Who
Never Had a Childhood Dog to Cry Over.  Kids Who
Don’t Like to Read Because They Were Never Read
Bedtime Stories When They Were Younger.  Kids Whose
Mothers Never Called Them Tweetie or Pumpkin or Honey or ***.  
Kids That Were Not Told to Just Go to the Bathroom When
Their Tummies Hurt Instead of the Health Room.  Kids Who Never
Listened to the Spice Girls’ Album Spice World on Cassette on the
Way to the Store.  Kids Who Never Got a Peach Drink Out of a Vending Machine at the Pick’N’Save on 27th  Street and Still Don’t Know
Exactly What 50¢ Peach Drink Their Mother Bought For Them.  
There Are Thousands of Dogs Euthanized Each Day Because of
How Sick They Are or Because They Were at a Shelter For Far Too Long
or Because They Are a Pitbull or a Rottweiler or Some Other
Irrationally Feared and Disliked Dog Breed.  We Didn’t Euthanize My
Stage-Four-Cancer-Stricken Dog or Even Get Her Treatment Beyond
Pain Medicine Because We Were Selfish.  We Do a Lot of Things Because
We Are Selfish.  We Waited Five Days to Pull the Plug on My Vegetable
Mother Because We Were Waiting For a Miracle That We Knew Would
Never Happen Because She Stopped Breathing the Moment the
Aneurysm Burst.  My Sister is Getting Married in June and My
Grandfather is Going to Walk Her Down the Aisle in My Mother’s
Place.  My Grandparents Had to Move In With My Sister After My
Grandmother Fell Down Too Many Times and Didn’t Take Her Health
Problems Serious Enough.  There Are Repercussions For Thinking
You Are Safe When You Are Really Not.
Imitation poem of James Shea's "Haiku."  Written for my Advanced Poetry Workshop.
Taylor St Onge Jan 2016
This is ancient land, this is
       hallowed ground, this is
21 kilometers worth of tunnels.  

Blood stops flowing after death
                                                          becaus­e the heart is no longer beating;
no longer forcing blood to gush through veins and arteries and vessels.  
It gets lazy, becomes stagnant.  
Slowly slides down to the
                                               lowest point on the body; creates a
                                          reddish purple discoloration on the skin
similar to a bruise, but not quite the same thing.  

          This is what I imagine the fifth level of the catacombs to look like:
                                           a reddish purple discoloration
                                          spread across my mother’s back.  

This is what I see when I close my eyes and rub them a bit too hard for a bit too long.  This is what I see when I look into a hole in the stone walls that is big enough to fit an infant.  This is what I see in the reflection of the Trevi Fountain.  This is what I see when I try to remember the shape of my mother’s sleeping body as it curled in on itself on top of a flat hospital mattress.  

The color of death is not black, is not white.  The
color of death is the color of blood: the way it looks
through the skin after having
                                                       hours and
                                                                ­            days and
                                 weeks to
slowly slink down into the
lowest bend of the body.  

This is the reddish umbra of the earth that the
                                                                ­                     eclipsed moon hides behind.  
This is my body given for you.  
Take and eat.  
                                                  Do this is the remembrance of
                                                                ­                                                                 me.
part of my Rome chapbook.
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