STEVEN SICKLES
reflects on a
POEM by CHRIS HEWITT

I love Chris Hewitt's poem "The Lifting Team." It is deceptively simple in it's construction and almost conversational in tone, but so beautiful.

 

THE LIFTING TEAM

Recently in the hospital,
and in great pain
from broken bones
after an accident,
I had to be lifted:
bed to gurney, gurney to
x-ray table (brutally hard) table to chair.

Each time they sent for the Lifting Team:
Solomon, built like a football-player with
a wide smile, and Merwin, smaller, agile,
a savvy bird. Each time Solomon would say,
(seeing the tenseness of fear on my face),
"Don't worry, you'll be alright."
Indeed, their arms held me in a firm cocoon,
I never felt the slightest pain.

When in death's last delirium,
I shall call on the Lifting Team.
They will arrive as angels at my bedside,
and Solomon will say, "Don't worry, you'll be alright."
And they will halt my ghastly nose-dive into hell,
and lift me up, up, high up
into the fields of stars.

 

I suppose that everyone who's had an extended hospital stay or becomes a repeat visitor has a similar story of compassion. Chris took his experience and made art from it.

Reading Chris's poem again made me recall a hospital experience of my own. When I was in Kaiser, recovering from meningitis, the blood-letting staff were not able to use my right arm to retrieve samples, due to the recent surgery to remove clots from the arteries leading to my hand. After repeated attempts to locate viable veins in my left arm, the skin was bruised and sore.

One morning I was visited by a tehnician in the disguise of Patti Labelle. This black angel had hair sculpted in several unlikely directions. Her nails were long and jungle red. Her sweater was resplendent with faux pearls and golden thread that meandered across her ample bosom. I guess because she was so fabulous, so outrageous, I took an instant liking to her.

I warned her that I would whimper, maybe even cry, because the attempt to find uncollapsed veins required incessant poking and I was worn-out from the process. I understood she was simply doing her job. I pleaded with her to ignore my undignified whining.

She said, "Baby, I wouldn't hurt you. Turn your head." I did as she requested and offered my bruised and atrophied left arm. A minute later I begged her to get on with it. Anticipating the pain was making me crazy. She said, "Honey, I'm all done," and offered me a vial of scarlet liquid as proof. I never thought to ask her name. I expected (I hoped) to see her from that day forward. But I never saw her again.

I applaud the Solomons, Merwins, and all the sweet, careful, IV technicians that populate our hospitals, who, in the face of constant human suffering, can still remain watchful in each and every case. And I am grateful that Chris Hewitt described their intersection with our lives so eloquently.

© 2005 Steven Sickles
"The Lifting Team" © 2005 Estate of Christopher Hewitt

Chris Hewitt Photograph © 1985 Barbara Loudis

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Read Steven Sickles'
other contributions to BENT: Five-Finger Exercise and Learning to Look All Over Again.

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Editor's Note: Chris Hewitt died in 2004. Here are links to the writing he published in BENT.

POETRY

At the Beach, Venice, California
The Enticing Lane
The Favorite Place
The Lifting Team
Love's Foolishness
My Feet
Newly Blind
Reincarnation
Skimming
Still Breathing
What Brains Are For

PROSE

As a Good Father Should
The Blaspheming Moon: A Play in Three Scenes
Mightier than the Mouth
Moonlight Sonata: A Love Story
Sticks and Stones
Tenacity

 

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2005