Walking in Los Angeles

by Stephen Dunn

The paramedics spoke as if from afar
and I, who didn’t know where I was or why,
answered from the restaurant floor.
“I’m fine,” I said, our most familiar lie.

My dinner companions explained I’d gone
ashen, and then died (one of them thought),
but I had merely mixed some medication
with some wine, not knowing my cough

was pneumonia’s broadcast from below.
Women faint. Men pass out.
I passed out (collapsed?) and now
I was going for a sirened ride through a state

not mine, on my back, oxygen up my nose.
The other diners returned to their food.
I think I heard that brief, polite applause
reserved for an opponent carried off a field.

I was their story now, their dessert.
Even I was thinking how I might be told.
There was this man, a stranger, lying there inert.
He was more interesting before he stirred and spoke.

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