If It Wasn’t My Daughter

by Lance Larsen

If it wasn’t my daughter who went into sepsis in ER
and was later welcomed into Respiratory
by four nurses in hazmat suits, I might have cracked
some jokes to break the tension: Oh, you’re wearing smocks.
When do we get to finger paint? While you’re at it,
could you cut my hair? If it wasn’t my daughter,
I might have pointed across the street and rhapsodized
about Tito’s Cajun Shrimp Tacos and today
was 2-for-1 Tuesday. If it wasn’t my daughter,
I might have dressed down the extra workers
crowding her bed like vultures: She isn’t a science project.
Who cares if you’ve never seen a case of Lemierre’s.
But I was afraid that if I upset one intern, irked
one sour nurse, then God or the IV or a stray germ
floating down from above might wreak revenge.
If it wasn’t my daughter, I might have said,
15% mortality, those are sweet odds, I’ll take them every time,
just like playing Yahtzee, do you remember Yahtzee
at the cabin, only instead of trying to roll a 6 all you have
to do is not roll a 1, please please anything but a 1.
And I’d breathe on the die for luck and hand it to her.
Die, it still costs me to say it out loud. If it wasn’t
my daughter, I wouldn’t have prayed like a man
in a burning forest, wouldn’t have offered to trade
my left hand for a perfect cocktail of antibiotics,
my right for magical tubes embedded in her back
to drain the toxins but leave the blood.
If it wasn’t my daughter, I would have shared
how broken I felt when I chanced into the wrong
groggy room at 3:00 am. No machines beeping,
no pulsing lights, just a body on top of a bed,
an old man by the shape of him, face covered,
waiting to be picked up. If it wasn’t my daughter,
I might have explained how relieved I felt
in that chilled stillness that I had the wrong room,
chairs pushed back, no coats or stuffed bears,
no bouquets or uncleared trays only one Get Well
balloon high in the corner fidgeting like a girl
at a sock hop, hoping someone would ask her to dance.

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