by Alan Perry
Lines on her face
trace the straps she curls
over her ears, tightening
the medicinal-smelling mask
around her nose, across her cheeks
under her chin. A face shield
tightly banded on her forehead
reflects what lies in front of her.
Hard to breathe, harder still
for her patients, their lines
in the hall grow longer each day.
More tubing to connect, intubations
to perform, rotation of the dead
with the near-dying–hallway
to room to hallway, and again.
Her voice is muffled as she holds
an iPad in front of the patient
encouraging his relatives to say
words she’s heard before.
No one can read her face
under the mask, the turning corners
of her mouth as breath fades
biting her lip when the patient
no longer inhales.
Droplets run past her nose
into the absorbent mask.
Her goggles fog up
from the heat, the heaviness
of what she must wear.