Aequanimitis, and Rita Lin

by James S. Wilk


In the first place, in the physician or surgeon no quality takes rank with imperturbability…
--William Osler, M.D., Valedictory address, University of Pennsylvania, May 1, 1889

I phoned your surgeon
and told him how

our resuscitation efforts
had been Homeric—

full ALSO protocol
and then some.

I informed him how
his sutures had failed,

how bacteria had made
an amphibious invasion,

swimming up your portal vein,
establishing a beachhead

in your liver like some
microbial D-Day,

how it spread from there
to lungs, to kidneys, to death.

And not once, as I told him
about the ventilator,

the desperate surgeries,
the blood clots,

the multi-organ failure
or the death of your unborn son,

did he say, “Oh, my goodness!”
or “How dreadful!”

or “That poor family—two young
children now without a mother!”

but rather, “Thank you for letting
me know. I’ll note it in her chart,”

thereby pushing imperturbability
to no-longer-human limits.

Rita Lin

I love you. Adore you.
You know I need you,
don’t you? Every day
you’re here for me.
I’m addicted to you, Darling.

You got me through college,
through grad school, too.
Through Dante, through Joyce,
even through Paradise
Lost, though I wouldn’t have
wished it longer.

I love your shape,
your moonlike roundness,
how smooth you are
and how readily you go down.
You make me feel so good
I can’t get enough.

With you, I’m a placid school
of angel fish, swimming
in unison through
the graceful stalks and leaves
swaying in the fish tank.
With you, I’ll always be true.

Without you, I’m the chaos
of ping-pong balls swirling
in the tumbler just before
they draw the Powerball.
I pace the floor. I pick
at scabs without you.

I’ll see a doctor today—
I have five of them, you know—
and I’ll tell her that I’m doing fine
as long as I have you.
And she will write another month
of love for me and Rita Lin.