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3 a.m. In The Veteran's Hospital...





Dark shadows dance upon 
the bright white walls 
of the corridors, 
defying the laws of gravity. 
They giggle like children 
playing hide and seek 
as they dart in and out 
of the cracks in the mortar 
and through the lines 
on the speckled, tile floor. 
Whispering obscenities in anger 
for having died alone, 
in obscurity, 
forgotten. 

Their silhouettes show 
no signs of the arms 
and legs left behind, 
buried in distant places... 
I study each figure 
as I walk the long walk 
to the smoking pit. 
Making sure your shadow 
does not descend 
from the eighth floor 
in my selfish absence 
and I read every word 
on every locked door, 
count every spot on the floor, 
wondering who bled life there, 
and I listen 
to the silence. 

The translucent gateway to the outside 
opens magically 
as I approach. 
Somehow it knows 
I am one of the living, 
and the shadows that hawk me 
recede into the walls. 
Afraid of the bitter cold. 
It reminds them of death. 
I sit in a soliloquy 
on a frosted wooden bench, 
spotlighted by the red glow 
of an inadequate heat lamp, 
like a day old hamburger 
thinly wrapped and stale 
in some off-beaten fast food chain. 
Waiting... 

The heat lamp, tired of fighting 
the overwhelming odds of winter, 
clicks off. 
Leaving me to shiver as I fill my lungs 
with the smoke 
of two cigarettes 
chained until the stench of burning filter 
permeates the condensated exhales 
of distorted circles. 
Without warning 
panic descends upon me 
like the darkness of 3 A.M.. 
I need to be on the eighth floor, 
behind the restricted entrance 
to intensive care. 

I need to make sure 
all twenty-one life lines 
keeping you from becoming a shadow 
are imbedded deep in your skin 
like ticks. 
I need to hear the beep, beep , beep, 
of your heart beat. 
I need to hold your hand. 
I need to watch you breathe. 
I study each figure 
as I walk the long walk 
back from the smoking pit. 
Making sure your shadow 
does not descend 
from the eighth floor 
in my selfish absence 
and I read every word 
on every locked door, 
count every spot on the floor, 
wondering who bled life there, 
and I listen 
to the silence. 

Tony Spivey 
Copyright 1998 



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