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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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The Next Bed

Meantime, Danny’s jokes had grown

     more desperate.

“Anyone want a pound of

     hamburger?” he called, as we pulled

     the bandage off. “Step right up.”

Then he’d sniff.

“Stop it, Danny,” Rose’d say, cuffing him.

But “Maybe I should just take it off

     myself,” he said. “Where’s my jackknife?”

The man in the bed beside him got

     grayer and grayer, but still never peeped.

One morning, as we touched the bandage

     on the silent soldier’s ribs,

a great yell went up behind me

“like someone dropped a brick on your leg,” Rose said

     to Danny, sitting smug when we swung ’round,

               furious.

“Danny, what are you doing?”

“Nothing, Nurse Thurston. It wasn’t me.”

“Wasn’t you!?” Rose’s hands

     were on her hips,

               never a good sign.

“It was him.” And Danny pointed at the man we were tending,

     gray and grim. “Give him the shot.”

My eyes met Rose’s, and we

     looked at the man.

“I can stand it,” he said, but he

     was whispering. It was all he could

     manage, now.

“Yeah,” said Dan, “but I can’t. Give him mine.”

The other man

     said nothing, but did not look away

     or shake his head. The wet around his eyes

was not gratitude, I think, but

     sheer exhaustion.

We gave him the shot.

“We got to find a way,” Rose said, as we left the ward,

     “to get another doctor on that boy’s case.”

“Who? The silent guy?”

“No. Him we’re gonna lose. But Danny’s

     still got a chance, if someone who knows

     his eyebrows from an elm tree

     could take a look at him.”

“How’re you gonna manage that? Morton never takes a day off.”

“I know it, curse him. He must think steadiness

     makes up for skill. I’ll think of something.”

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