ARTHUR GINSBERG



THE CHIEF OF MEDICINE



Ludwig Eichna sits behind a rosewood desk
in the ivory tower across the street from
Armageddon. I stand before him, buck private
intern, drenched in sweat and grime, after
48 hours of emergency duty. He demands
a bill of lading; handwritten cards on seventy
Brooklyn souls in various stages of entropy.
As if, I had just disembarked from a European
trip, brightly coloured postcards following
obediently in my wake. He has not seen
seventy humans spread like a mosaic beneath
stethoscope and rubber-gloved hands. I want
to say, I am fatigued and my feet ache, that
I donít give a damn for documentation, that
I want to sleep and shower, the way he did
before work. I want to say, the cards will not
tell, Jose Martinezís story, how he died in
my arms, a steak wedged in his windpipe. How
my own esophagus quivers on the verge
of spasm. He listens impassively as dust,
the metal of his eyes, dead as glacial blue.
He has forgotten the feel of membranes, slick
in a split-open chest, putrefaction from an addictís
abscess, the all clear shout before paddles
convulse a skewered heart. The cards will not
say why Dora, bag-lady from Flatbush, thinks
I am her reincarnated son from Jerusalem, will
not recapture one iota of my pleasure, when
I cut through Amberís pantyhose, to reveal
the glistening head of her newborn son, or
horror of a man who screwed himself with
a light-bulb, forgetting glass is fragile. I want to

tell Eichna, these cards are old news, that
the ink was spilled hours ago, that the ink
ran like blood to my knees and elbows, that
the world is strangling in ink, paper,
that, electronic patterns on oscilloscopes
are something we have invented to remove
us from matters of the heart. He says in
mellifluous voice, the report is due by nine,
my future depends on it, that is all.


© 1995, Arthur Ginsberg


Arthur Ginsberg is a Seattle neurologist and the author of a volume of poetry titled Walking the Panther (Northwood Press, 1984). His writing has been published in several journals including Arnazella, Beacon Review, Spindrift, Embers, and Prickly Pear.