David Kopacz, MD
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This poem is not about a man whose hand is stuck in the elevator door


From the unpublished collection: You Let Your Magic Tortoise Go
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I forgot the lines
I was rehearsing in the tub
that brought me to this book...

could it they have been?

such poverty assaults the ego...
can our dreams
ever blur the intransigent lines which draw
the shape that shuts us in?...
each day demands we create our whole world over,
disguising the constant horror in a coat
of many-colored fictions...
till death
shatters the fabulous stars and makes us real, (Sylvia Plath)

No, I remember:

Tales of sorrow are endless,
at least it seems so, sometimes,
and perhaps it is so

lying in the tub, relaxing
after a day of listening to sorrows
reading the poetry of human extermination
my work, my project, my free-time
so it seems

I stepped off the elevator today
at the end of the day
an older woman and I
shared a silent ride down
I started at 8,
she at 5
we stepped off the elevator today
and saw 2 people standing
by the opposite elevator
a man
whose hand is stuck in the elevator door
and a woman
trying to pull the door open
we stepped off the elevator opposite
we partially took in the scene
the silent woman who was in the elevator with me
began speaking,

“Do you need help?”

“I'll go get the...”

then she left
I don't know who or what she went to go get
I don't know if I said anything
I dropped my bag
and took the woman's place at pulling on the doors
I pulled, nothing
I braced one foot against the jamb
and pulled,
the man's hand slipped out,
red from the pressure of the door
the woman and I began questioning him
I asked him if he could move his hand
we offered to take him to “acute care”
he was shocked
we all may have been
he said,

“No.”

and jumped on the next elevator going up
(oh yeah, I had initially pushed the “up” button hoping it would release the door)

We all left the scene
as I was walking home
I wondered if the silent woman
ever returned, having got

“the...”

only to find us gone
I wondered if we should have insisted
the man have his hand looked at
I wondered if we should have filled out
some sort of report
I wondered what would have happened
if the elevator had started to go up
when I pushed the “up” button

This poem is not about the man who called earlier,
drunk on images from Viet Nam
who called while I was
transcribing quotes about
trauma, little poems I was trying to turn in to
theory - to use to publish,
to understand
the man who I will not write about,
maybe because it wasn't poetic
(except when he “offered” to show me “the real Viet Nam”)
but also because
it is not right to turn someone else's
tale of sorrow into a poem
it just isn't right
(and if I were to write about his tale,
it would inevitably be about me)
but it is this man I kept thinking of
while writing
it is with respect to this man
that I now wonder,
does what I do - talking & listening - heal?
in 15-20 seconds
I freed a man's hand from the elevator door
does what I do, learning languages
and being patient, heal?
I tell myself it does
yet I sit at my desk,
bare feet growing cold,
asking this question
does what I do heal?
at least it seems so, sometimes
and perhaps it is so

This poem is not about a man whose hand is stuck in the elevator door
This poem is not about a man drunk on images of the “real Viet Nam”
this poem is about me.

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