It was 1985, and the world was new, blah blah blah
we’ve been over this before, in a thousand poems since
my father died. but did i tell you?
i was in the bathroom when they came for us
and so, came back to the waiting room to find them gone,
had to find mom and sister in that little room
where they’d already been told
and i didn’t get from the doctor’s messenger
all the details. would i have questioned it?
probably not. i did not question my fierce sister
when she told me, it was that his heart was too damaged
from smoking, from smoking.
and it was only years later, when a younger brother
himself had to have heart surgery
that we spoke to the hospital about fear of anesthesia
and then, nearly 30 years on, the anesthesiologist said, well
we did have troubles here in the 80s. troubles?
mistakes were made, people died.
the anesthesiologist did not say, well you’re a lifelong non-smoker
so you have nothing to worry about.
mistakes were made then, he said. people died.
so possibly our dad among them.
would we have wanted to sue? in 1985
they didn’t tell us it was possibly anything but his own fault.
was he killed because he was
inconveniently loud and obnoxious? he was that. an indian who just wouldn’t shut up.
but surely no surgeon sworn to do no harm would say it did no harm
to remove a loud indian from the scene.
they shaved him, and then canceled his surgery. the humiliation of that.
and then when they did operate, somehow it went wrong.
he had, mom and sister were told, a weak heart.
how could that, when you think of it, be true? he’d managed
to make his own bypass, in order to keep on walking.
does that sound like the work of a weak heart?
he’d managed to walk upright after all.
but nothing we could say in rebuttal would have brought him back anyway, so
we said nothing. we did not demand investigation.
i did only this: when we left
i took his clothes out of the anonymous patient bag
he was not anonymous, he was not unknown, unloved, unwanted. he was my father.