1st floor, lobby, cafeteria, shops, elevators
2nd floor, O.R., N.I.C.U., I.C.U.
3rd floor, administration
4th floor, research
5th floor, first wards, broken bones, short stay
6th floor, heart patients
7th floor, infectious diseases
8th floor, burns, plastic surgery, urology, oncology, bone marrow transplant/ isolation
In the hospital, never choose the penthouse suite.

I jump on an empty elevator, and hit 8,
pray for the door to close
just let me get past it all,
make it back to the zone
where everyone understands;
back to another world.
But, then, a doctor comes in,
a couple, next a middle-aged woman,
two nurses, researchers with bulging briefcases,
—perhaps pharmaceutical salesmen—
hands reach out and ignite little buttons,
the door is held for an elderly woman, who asks for a floor,
and as the steel slabs slide shut every number is bright.
We stop. We start. Bump up another
level. The car slowly empties. I scan the others.
And I see her. The middle aged woman,
except she isn’t, she is Oriental and her
black hair fooled me. She is a grandmother.

Gently, barely perceptibly. Dabbing at her underlid,
with a twisted knotted tissue. Fifth floor. More room now.
She turns to face the door, so no one can see her. We who ride
past these floors know not to notice. Her shoulders shake.
Her dress is patterned with flowers on a black background.
The scarf about her neck shakes at me, a little boat
tossed upon a hidden sea, a black sea ornately waved
with buds and blossoms. Another floor passes.
How can she empty the horror that suddenly appeared
in her heart, the desperation that clings to a tiny soul?
And how can she catch it all within that one small scrap
of tissue?

Seventh floor. She turns sideways again, confident in my complicity.
She trenches eye-liner, dries her face; snuffles into the ball,
wipes the tip of her nose, dabs her red lipstick; puts on her
armour. She knows I am in armour; she knows I am weeping;
we know we will not show it; we are not the brave.

Striding off the elevator without a glance,
she tosses a crumpled ball into the trash.
I stop to wonder at the rarest of blossoms,
find it floating upon wax paper written
with ketchup, and finished fast food containers;
it bursts with a thousand creases,
faintest hue of pink and jet staining each edge,
I stare at this most beautiful flower
and cannot imagine its cost, the price,
and what remains to be paid.