COPD (End Stage)

by Christopher Chang: Resident in Family Medicine

Third Prize Winner 2014 Gerald F. Berlin Creative Writing Award

we three in their kitchen
one unable to speak
one unwilling
one unsure what to say

clearly her hand in decorating
plaques and tiles and quilts
with inspirational quotes
Dance like no one is watching!
tell that to my patient
too proud to ask me to come
but too sick to refuse

we talk of life and death and other things
of a life 22 going on 23 years in this building
too long a time and yet too short now
to think of lungs too tired to work anymore
of deaths slow and painful and cruel
like Giles Corey asking for more weight
but less noble
of sunshine and fresh air just four walls and
three flights of stairs away

Is this how he dies, her eyes ask, lying on a couch hooked to an oxygen tank barely able to move? In an apartment building that smells like cigarettes and moldy carpets and the neighbor’s dog and the homeless person that lives in back? Don’t you have any way to fix him, make him breathe and walk and joke like he used to, before he got sick? Look at the photos on the walls, the souvenirs, all the things that are for me and him—together. Can’t you save the life that we have, keep us like this forever and not just in your memory?

The fan whirrrrrs blowing away dyspnea
and my train of thought.

thank you he puffs
his words worth all the more for what it costs him
thank you for coming
thank you