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  You could have a big dipper   

Tell Me Tell You by Anne Perez

Nobody tells you

How the years of waiting rooms

Emergency room runs


Become one room

One emergent life

One dying overandoverandover


They are One weighting room

Air of blood and gasps and saline drips

Don’t cry, don’t yell

Smile and nod, calm: listen for the key words

Learn to lie for as long as you can, people stick around longer:

How’s she doing? So much better

When will he be back to normal? Soon

Medical science is magic, isn’t it? Yes, no permanent scarring or side effects or debilitating repercussions at all

How are you? Fine

Until you can’t anymore, then just be quiet


Nobody tells you

How to spot the decent earlylatenight truck

A pendant hanging from a string of beaded ambulances and roach coaches

Surrounded by a cluster of shiny med students

And swallow platitudes

With hot coffee and three Excedrin

Until too much burns through your gut

Switch to tea

And learn to recognize each other

By careful thoughts

Hoping for the best possible outcome

Whatever that is


Of words, murk of lost performances and milestones

And parent-teacher conferences

And sleep and friendships and chances

Nobody tells you

How to swipe a folding chair

And hide it in the curve of a bedside curtain

How to listen for the warming cart

Being restocked, so you can steal him a heated blanket, her an extra pillow

A clean sheet for your chair


Nobody tells you

How to stop the panic attacks when the medical bills become a typhoon

How to slow your food intake to balance the budget

When the absolute musthavenosubstitutions medicine isn’t covered

You could give up your smokes but

Then you’d have to face the everyminuteeverysecond thought this will never end:

You will be juggling the appointments and titration schedules and warning signs and watching and measuring and keeping the sites clean and dry and measuring dead tissue after the earth itself has given up

I told you

So tell me

How to scream under the weight of this

smiling and nodding and waiting and fury.


Anne Perez (she/her) is a lifelong New Yorker who explores the extraordinary of the ordinary through fiction, sporadic blogging, and the occasional poem. She can be found on Twitter as Mrs Fringe.

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