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In the ER, I see the word rhabdomyolysis

And write it down in my little red notebook.

And then old James says, Come here. Can I

Tell you something terrible? I always tell you

The terrible things.


This man in 4A? No history of medical anything,

No nothing. Then this morning, he

Sees a tiny bit of blood in his urine. He

Comes here only because his kids

Bug him to.


He gets a CT scan, and it turns out he

Has a softball-sized tumor

On his kidney, and it’s already,

It’s already spread

All over his body, to his pancreas,

Everywhere in his abdomen.


Can you believe it? No medical history

Whatsoever. You know, I’m so bitter, but

This stuff gets me. I’m almost afraid

To go over there because of how

It messes me up.


Standing beside me, he fills

His pockets with syringes as a waiter fills

His apron with drinking straws

And returns to the patient as to a customer

At a diner —

And as a waiter places first the napkin

Then the fork and the knife, quickly

He draws blood from the offered arm

And turns, the thought of it traveling

From his shoulders to the corner of his

Eye, hidden from us, and then gone.

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