Don Krieger: Four Poems

For No Reason*

The right carotid,
a vascular case
with stroke risk
so I am here.

For no reason

her heart stops,
her brain too.

I know You from Your
world and Scripture.

You drowned everything
when You repented

the brutal world You had
made. You murdered

Lot’s wife
for remembering

her city
as You burned it down.

What’s her crit?
When it comes back low,
Where’s the hemorrhage?

He cracks her sternum,
closed heart massage
minute after minute
no rhythm or hope.

You glorified Moses
who lay in wait
to murder.

You hardened Pharaoh’s heart
to alibi your slaughter
Egypt’s first-born to the last

When I take over
the bone edges
grind under my hands

her pliant heart beneath
soft and silent

but then living

pushing back.

Time after time
You boasted I do this
so you know how mighty I am.

Half her brain returned.
They gave blood
placed a pacer
and an assist pump

got her off the table alive
but no further.

How can I find You
righteous and trustworthy,
love You or even
fear and obey You –

it’s a hundred generations
since You’ve spoken.

Since then that surgeon turned
to cosmetics, varicose veins,
I work with numbers
they don’t push back
or need reasons.

* originally appeared in The Red Wheelbarrow.

Saturday Night on Call*

A sheriff guards the operating room. Inside
we fight. Her neck was broken in a brawl –

she thrashes and spits as we hold her shoulders
and head still, work to realign the bones

constantly checking, dreading the worst,
blunt silence, slack body. Hours later

with neck straight, flipped on her belly,
moving arms and legs before she sleeps,

I step out for a breath. The surgeon
is at the scrub sink, She’ll just kill someone else.

That may be, I say, but we won’t have killed her.

It’s been decades. I still dread and hope for her
and I treasure the stubborn skill of that surgeon.

originally appeared in Neurology.

Dream Street*

I left her the house
and got a place on Torley.
Each night the neighbors

put chairs on the sidewalk,
turn the TV face out, drink Iron City
and watch the kids play in the street.

I get home from work at 6 or 10
or 2, shower and then sleep
with eyes open:

a child shrieking on a hospital gurney,
her spine flayed and straightened,
the smell of burning in my hair,

a new mother life-flighted from the mall,
brain shifting in the scanner,
crushed by bleeding while we watch.

We drink coffee and wait
while a father facing doom in our hands
says goodbye to his children.

Each day I pedal in over the Bloomfield Bridge,
or drive when called at night, never dreaming
what will come next.

* originally appeared in Verse-Virtual.

Battle Fatigue*

The surgeon carves, dissects, sears the bleeding.
The anesthetist: numbness, paralysis, stupor.

My part: to hear and report
each limb’s electric murmurs,

the brain’s muffled replies,
mixed with the whine

of machines, arrogance, fear.
We fight for normal life on waking.

We trust normal will return for us.

They are out there, our charges,
ten thousand who woke well,

those who did not. I don’t recall
their faces, just the smell

of blood and burning,
the urgent charge, uphold life,

sick wonder when the lamp goes dark,
why did I have to see that?

*originally appeared in Neurology.

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