It's New Years Eve and I'm thinking about all the New Years Eves I worked on the ambulance, with the sound of revelers in the background, cheap horns blowing and the bus inching its way through the crowds. And my friend John Brennan, who worked every New Years Eve in the Clare's ER. Here's a poem from BrokeDown Palace I wrote for him.
Dr. John Brennan, the bub, was born on my birthday. In the infant dawn, 1950. On the flip side of the world.
Dr. John Brennan, the billy-lid, was a model train buff, dodging mass to create elaborate track layouts with his brother Peter.
Dr. John Brennan, the happy little vegemite, was an ace squash player and card shark.
Dr John Brennan, the bloke in the white coat, punched holes in the walls of his Upper West Side apartment, so his trains could really let it fly.
Dr. John Brennan, my friend, died in Australia in 2002. I found all this out after he died.
It's what people write about, once someone is gone./The little things you can put into words, that made them special. Words to try and make the world feel what you feel./Sometimes on the ambulance, late at night I'd find myself getting angry with a patient. Because I was tired./Because they called every night. It doesn't matter.
I didn't want to be that person./The burnt out medic, the tough girl. So I asked a question about their lives. Where did you grow up?/What did you do before you fell on hard times? It didn't always work./But a lot of times the smallest peek into their past a scrap of what they once had been/dissolved my anger./Let me see the skel, the junkie, the crackhead as someone real. Like me.
I guess that's what I'm doing now
Relaying fact after fact about John Brennan Trying to make him a man again/instead of a phantom, fading with the years.
But maybe all that matters is that one New Year's Eve every stretcher filled, the hallway lined with puking drunks, bloody noses, slashings and broken wrists/The memory of a homicide from an hour before still burnt in my mind
And Dr. Brennan at the center of it all, in his perfect tux, his bow-tie and butcher's apron Whispering to me that there's a bottle of Moet et Chandon in the lounge, and I should take a break and raise a toast. A toast to life, in all its chaotic glory.