Hung Up

Hung Up

My guide Dr. Bill says to avoid attack
Place hands at sides as with dogs
Points at a ceiling plaque:
“Abandon hope, all ye who I enter here”

Perhaps Dante did nip in from hell
But I never could see that damned sign

It’s the last day before the first day of work
Our Manhattan hell a hospital called Bellevue
Tour’s first stop the Psych Jail
Mobsters feigning madness to beat murder
Psychotics claiming their crimes
Not inside the door and they’re yelling
Somebody’s hung up

It’s a kid from Riker’s
Three-quarters upright in a bathroom stall
Hung himself with pulled thread from his robe
If there’s a spirit inside I don’t feel it

Skin like wax, no breath, no beat
We lay him down and start the code
I shout for a crash cart
There is none
You get winded pressing breath in the dead
We never get a pulse

The internists’ code team saunters by
Two minutes away but taking twenty
Curse our technique then dumbshow compressions
They’re slumming – last week I was one of them

We wait for the chief psych resident who
Stares at his beautiful shoes
Scowls at the filthy floor
Avoids our eyes
Calls the code

I study the kid alone on the ground
Face sucked into skull
Red line on his neck
Emaciated, starved
Body dead as the linoleum

Dante was right
Good thing the job starts tomorrow