Lay down, the doctor told my grandmother.
My grandmother had three graduate degrees.
She could quote books she’d read fifty years ago.
She loved language
the way some people love wine—
with abrasive devotion.
Lay down, ma’am.
Pneumonia brought her to the hospital
two days before she died at 97.
She couldn’t sit still,
infection drowning her from within.
Lay down before you hurt yourself.
Lie down, my grandmother corrected.
I can’t lay down. No one can lay down.
It’s the present. Stop living
in the past.
The doctor deemed her delirious
and pressed her body to the bed,
squeezing her arm with youthful force.
A bruise formed almost immediately,
spreading like dye sucked through cloth.
And so my grandmother bit the doctor.
Dr. Matthew J. Farrell grew up in Sacramento and currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, a fellow doctor. He received a BA in Film & Media Studies from Stanford University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and an MD from Oregon Health & Science University. He is now a radiation oncology resident at UCLA, doing his best to write in his head during long commutes. His fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in both literary and academic journals, including JAMA and the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Great punch of humor at the poem’s end!