Tattered voting ballot. Business card smudged
with coffee. Medicare card. Senior center
card. Senior shuttle ID. Power port card
with implant date, reference number,
doctor’s phone. Expired coupon for coffee.
Receipt for overdue book fine. Torn fortunes
pulled from hollow cookies. Photo
of next of kin. Pizza card, fully stamped,
tenth slice given free. Bonus shopper card.
Library cards from another county. Pharmacy
savings card. Library due dates. Dentist reminder
with calendar sticker. Jotted notes: items
for sale (“Coffee table in decent condition”).
Scuffed faculty ID, permit for parking.
In The Longest Hour
come, too, to you, to make children
of your peers, infants of superiors?
The too-short gown. The catheter.
The hourly scrutiny, phlegmatic lights
The blood suctioned
beyond his skin, cleaned and returned.
And the witnessing. Again, the terrible
witnessing. The curtains shriek
and cringe on their cogs. Will nothing
be spared; will nothing remain unseen?
When the body undoes
its beauty, will you see how shroud-like
the bed sheets, how small the bones
against them? How cold
the clinic at night. No number
of blankets could warm him.
So few chances to speak
it seemed, to my father, as I watched him dim
in that cold white bed. In pain but not wanting
to die, he tried to take his sickness in stride.
White doctor Black doctor Asian doctor
placing hands on his chest, a daily oracle.
Pacing in waiting rooms.
Foam cups of bitter tea. Gaunt-faced physicians
appearing, reappearing. The daily ablutions, then
preparing my gloved hands. Gowned body.
Masked face. The thumbed brochure of answers:
What’s the role of God in suffering?
Dilruba Ahmed’s debut book, Dhaka Dust (Graywolf Press, 2011), won the Bakeless Prize awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her poems have appeared (or will soon appear) in Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Memorious, New England Review, and Poetry. Her work has also been anthologized in Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016), Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas, 2010), and elsewhere. Ahmed is a lecturer in creative writing at Bryn Mawr College. www.dilrubaahmed.com