I Guess I Could Work a Double Shift

by Bill Caldwell

Up at 4:30, a shower, swig of Diet Coke,
grab donuts for the night shift, drive into
the parking ramp, wave to security.

Your legs twisted around mine, my hand
under your pillow, a pretzel. On to the elevator, swish badge through the scanner.

Got to, serve somebody, as Dylan sings.

Sandy, my favorite patient, didn’t sleep.
She was in and out of other patients’ rooms last night.
Pulse. Blood Pressure. Respirations.

I notice uncombed hair, moist skin, and tears.
I rub her sore shoulder, hand her Kleenex,
set up her breakfast tray, then tell her a joke.

I have a knack for this, going down a list of endless
tasks then deciding what is important as my feet hit the floor.

From the windows of the lounge, daybreak opens,
and headlights stream into town from the freeway.
The river is hidden in mist, a lost ribbon.

It is the smell of your skin I miss most.

E.R. wants a patient on the floor ASAP.
I catch the doctor, hand her requests—a social work visit
and a physical therapy appointment for Sandy.
Get admit orders. Set up medications.

Admission checklist—ready, but first, a quick trip down
back steps and out the door for a cigarette.
I won’t call. I won’t text. I won’t write a letter.

I scurry up the steps.

Bill Caldwell and his husband live in Asheville, North Carolina. Bill is a retired nurse and marriage and family therapist. His poems have been published in The Great Smokies Review, Artemis, and can be heard on KAXE radio. Bill has taken writing classes at The Loft in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Great Smokies Writing Program in Asheville.