Eight Hours

- By Ian Werkheiser

Hold, release
Hold, release
Things that seemed without effort
A vice tightening with each repetition
Hold, release
Hold, release
There are only twenty incubators, they said
Sanctions and bombing had reduced us to only this, they said
Hold, release
Hold, release
You held your nephew in your arms, struggling to breathe on his own
Trying so hard.
They told you one would be available. A promise.
Hold, release
It is not.
Hold, release
They said, this is not a hotel.
Shaking their heads, this is not a hotel.
Who should be taken out, for this orphaned child?
A hospital drowning in bodies
Hold, release
A nurse, taking pity hands you a bag, a mask
She shows you:
Hold. Release.
You have sat with your nephew for seven hours
You will not look at it, this fact:
You cannot do this forever.
Hold, release
Hold, release
Do you, can you, hope for one of the incubators to free?
With all that means?
Do you speak to your sister, about this baby before you?
Do you think of the Americans, wondering why there is still no medicine, now that the sanctions ended in fire?
Or do you think of nothing but your arms, trading off more and more frequently?
And that little face before you?
Hold, release
Hold, release
It will be another hour, more or less
Sitting with this little boy
All that is left of the life in your sister
Another hour before you collapse
No one to relieve you
And the boy dies in your arms.

Ian Werkheiser, 24, graduated from the University of Washington last June, where he was involved in the campaign surrounding the WTO protests. He can be reached at chambara@tsunamisquadron.com

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