Poetry: It’s a Living

It’s a Living
–Richard Vargas
From McLife: Select­ed Poems 1978–2004

it’s called cus­tomer service
try­ing to help my fel­low man
make sense of the med­ical insurance
some slick car­pet­bag­ging agent
talked him into buying

there are no easy answers
like today
the guy on the phone
was speak­ing with restraint
hold­ing on to his dignity
but i know beg­ging when i hear it
his voice cracked as he told me
the doc­tor tend­ing to his dying wife
was get­ting phone calls from one
of our case managers
being pres­sured to get her
released from the hospital

please he said
please ask them to stop
she’s in so much pain
my wife my best friend
she’s in a lot of pain and
there’s noth­ing they can do
please stop the phone calls

i tell him he’s got us mixed up
with some­one else
there is no record
of any phone calls
in his wife’s file
but i know better

i want to put him on hold
go find the ster­ile room with
white walls where face­less people
hold jel­ly donuts gripped
tight in their pudgy hands
as they put dol­lar signs
on the way we die

i want to stick my head inside
remind them that
soon­er or lat­er we all
fin­ish the race
some­times it ain’t’t too pretty
but in the end
if we’re lucky
we’ll have the love
of a pre­cious few
maybe the abil­i­ty to stare
death in the eye
so let this one go
just leave her be

but instead i assure
the guy i’ll do my best
to find out what’s going on
wait for him to hang up
decide to take my break
10 min­utes early

times like this i wish
i’d tak­en up smoking

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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