Man Matching Description

Andrew Collard

When they roll her in, hands covering
the wound, the argument between patients
over who lined up at the ER first
crescendos. I’m looking side-eyed
past the jabs and nervous laughter
to the doorway and the road beyond
for the drive-by shooter
that the TV tells our waiting room
is loose. Some injuries are serious
and some not serious enough: a man
who needs a simple X-ray yells
I can’t wait anymore and leaves, no words
to name the thing he wants, no way to reason
what it means when someone tells him no.
The news says that no motive is established
like the way I had no explanation in fourth grade,
when the principal asked me why
I pushed a boy against a goalpost
when he dropped a simple pass
playing football. He started seizing on the field:
Witnesses describe the shooter
as a bearded male, a car the same make
as the one my parents gave me at 19.
A nurse says don’t remove your wristbands
or we’ll have to start the process over
, flinching
when the angry man returns to shout obscenities,
demanding to be seen. The year I pushed the boy
was not the year that OJ went to trial, or the year
that Bill met Monica—the year the Liger
got loose near the school, and the teachers
made us walk home with the same kids
that stole our shoes for safety. It was the year
the older boys proclaimed no blood no foul
and taught us how to swear, to get our way
in any way we could. This year will not become
the year a bearded male shot eight innocents
downtown, the year one little city made the news:
this is the year an injured girl wrestled
with her wound for every breath, while a bearded male
called the head nurse at the desk a dirty name
and told her he’d be waiting in the parking lot.