With the selection of this poem by Carol Coven Grannick, we continue our series of original fiction or poetry by writers who either published their first book at 40 or after, or who have yet to publish a book. Writers interested in submitting work should see our guidelines.
JUST SO YOU KNOW Eight years ago I parked here, right here, this spot by the elevator on ‘Bing Crosby’ as if it grounded me for the day to come. This is the song, Georgia, that played then each morning at 5:30 when I got out of the car already sickened, nauseated from the moment I saw familiar sights on the drive there in anticipation of what they might have done to you overnight— and always did. This is the elevator that led to the bridge, the bridge that led to the desk where I validated the parking ticket. This is the ticket that cost too much. This is the floor, the second floor, with gift shop and restaurants, Vietnamese, Vegan, Greek, Au Bon Pain where I bought Cape Cod kettle chips each night to stay awake while driving home, crunching them, banging teeth against one another while slow-steering through Western Avenue snow tracks of others. This too is the floor where I walked up, down and around, ascending and descending the pair of escalators each time around so legs would carry and heart would pound for myself and you, in bed in delirium on a floor I don’t remember unless it was 8—yes, it was 8— with a tube in your throat to breathe with doctors like vultures saying long term care long term care as if hungry for some foul and spoiled food. I walked up and down escalators in moments I hoped they wouldn’t notice, but they did, and when I left the room to walk or pee they came in to do to you what they couldn’t when I was there. More propofol. More fentanyl. Keep him quiet. Keep him quiet. And this: this is the coffee I bought. This is the table where I sat for a few minutes on the many days that passed— This is not how I sat though, not how alone I was: this is me being with you now, alive you, a little impatient with my memories because you don’t have them you don’t know what it was like or know why even years later I watch for the lanky surgeon in his fancy suit and dream of hitting him, hurting him, hurting, hurting, hurting him until he cries out, What did I do to her
THIS IS WHERE I PARKED I drove in slowly, slowly foot caressing the accelerator at sight of an empty space and always—was it always?— at five-thirty in the morning night shift still there seven a.m. shift not arrived pulling right in, into a space by the elevator on ‘Bing Crosby’ singing "Georgia." I’d been on musical elevator floors before but somehow thought Bing was singing a bunch of his songs and that I’d almost magically arrived at the same Georgia moment every morning. It wasn’t until the last day—was it the last day?— that I realized he only sang "Georgia." Georgia all the time, on his mind. I could have come late and he would still have been singing the same song.
GEORGIA Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through. Bing sang it, and it sang me into the elevator, and then the building. Second Floor said the sexy elevator voice which woke my brain into a rage that sounded like this: what kind of hospital has a voice like that on their elevator? What kind of hospital had doctors and at least one nurse who would stand around a delirious, wild man and shake their heads as if there was nothing to find out nothing to do no one to call. What kind of hospital?
WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE What it was to be was a no big deal surgery pronounced by the lanky surgeon in the fancy suit but we knew by then that all surgeries can turn in an instant so reminded him of facts: my husband bleeds easily has done so in the past please take note. We’ve got it: a response as if to say we already know, don’t say it again we’ve seen it in the chart but leaving us feeling unheard and unimportant with harsh winter wind screaming in the background as if we had not spoken at all.
THE FIRST NIGHT They wouldn’t let me near you, their ring around your bedside tight hungry wolves on a dark navy night with no moon no streetlights no lit windows not wanting an intruder, the wife who stood sickened into dizziness. I found the head nurse told her about the male nurse the one who was laughing as he stared down at my wild and delirious husband whose fine brain had been eclipsed —no light shining— yes, that nurse: please keep him out of my husband’s room. I didn’t notice my sharp teeth my fur my howling at the invisible moon.
Carol Coven Grannick is a poet and author who writes for the very young and adults of all ages. Her children’s poetry and fiction has appeared in Cricket, Ladybug, Babybug, Highlights, Hello, Hunger Mountain, and The Dirigible Balloon, and her middle grade novel in verse, REENI’S TURN, debuted when she was 71 years old, was awarded Finalist in the 2016 Katherine Paterson competition and Honorable Mention in the 2018 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award. She received a Ragdale Foundation Residency and two Illinois Arts Council Grants for revising and marketing the work.
This set of poems is from Grannick’s work-in-progress, CALL ME BOB, a verse nonfiction narrative of one woman’s transformation into a patient advocate in order to save her husband’s life after a traumatic surgery in an environment of medical neglect and indifference. Her poetry for adults has appeared most recently in Ground, Bluebird Word, The Birmingham Arts Journal, Capsule Stories, Matter Anthology, Otherwise Engaged, A Moment of Your Time, Red Coyote, The Write City Magazine, and West Texas Review. A number of her essays on the writer’s inner journey, with a focus on emotional resilience, appear online at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s award-winning Cynsations blog, where Grannick served as a columnist until 2020.
This is a tour de force of searing detail about the angry helplessness felt in the face of medical indifference. Thank you for the privilege of reading this piece, Carol
I resonate to this poem. My own husband’s subdural hematoma. The eighth floor: neaurosurgery floor. Being helpless in Hospital Hell. Not so horrible an experience, a total recovery, but horrible enough. Very powerful poem. Thanks!