Lauren Scharhag


Four months and eight visits to the ER.
After that, you stop counting,
or forget how to count. Anyway,
you’re on a first-name basis
with the intake folks, and make jokes
about having a bed on reserve:
Garcon! Where’s my phlebotomist?
I insist she attend me at once.
Once again, I watch them wheel him back
while I am left to deal with the paperwork.
Later, inside the corpus of the hospital itself,
mammoth, shifting organism of renovations
and walkways, I wander 2am visitors’ lounges,
vacant except for doctors and nurses
in their sneakers and scrubs, trying to perch
on uncomfortable sofas and chairs,
trying to catch forty winks between shifts,
the night nurses who move silent as specters
through dim wards, checking vitals
and IV bags. The cafeteria, shuttered and scoured,
where a bank of vending machines lights up
at my approach, like an alien greeting.
This is the desperate hour, meals of
plastic-wrap chicken salad and empty calories
you don’t taste. The unreal hour,
balanced between life and not-life,
but you don’t know which is which.
The panic hour, where your sobs
are just another echo inside the beast.


Lauren Scharhag is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry. Her titles include Under Julia, The Ice Dragon, West Side Girl & Other Poems, and The Order of the Four Sons. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit:

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