the closest thing to
a religious moment
i’ve experienced

is the second of silence
after the night team
quietly announces
in between bleary-eyed sips
of lukewarm coffee:

“Ms. Smith in 113 passed.”

the deafening hush that befalls
the tiny huddle of
decade-old computers

muffles even the
nervous beeps of IV poles
rings of distant phones
squeaky wheels of hospital beds in transit

and the quiet is only broken by
the sudden squawk of a pager:
“man in 107 is complaining of pain,
ok to give dilaudid?”

and even a godless man can’t help but
look up for a split second –
in remembrance of the lady
with the newly diagnosed cancer
who just last week was on a family vacation
when she collapsed from a seizure –

before taking another sip of bitter caffeine,
swiveling around in the plastic chair
and getting back to work.