Getting Straight

A square-shouldered steelworker in a hospital gown, pale as pearl, 
waddles the hallway pushing an IV pole on wheels, 
holding it firm as a handshake. 

His heart is beating in a cage, swelled like a sponge, 
vitals through the roof. Even though his modern watch 
doesn’t tick, he can feel his time 

slipping away, irretrievable seconds passing by. 
He tries to avoid these thoughts, as if negotiating heavy traffic, 
but they return when he sees 

his reflection in the nursing station glass. 
The nurse inside gives him a smile and a wave. 
She comes out from the cubicle and tells him he’s 

looking good, then returns to her computer 
to work on insurance claims. Exhausted, he sits down 
in a visitor’s area to catch his breath. A black 

woman pushing a cart of linens stops, sits next to him 
and asks how he is doing. He tells her that he doesn’t think 
he’ll be around much longer. 

She grasps his hand, looks into his eyes and says, 
“Well, that’s a bridge we all have to cross, isn’t it?” 
It’s the first honest thing he’s heard all day.


William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan. He has published nine collections of poetry and one book of short stories, all available on Amazon.  Over 200 of his poems and short stories have appeared in literary journals and his work is frequently anthologized.