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April 22, 2011
Mechanical Man

Spread-eagled in full restraints,
Donald Bates glares at me.

A plastic tube in his throat
connects with a Bennett respirator
Whose dials dictate his breathing.

The lump under the skin of his chest
is a Medtronic pacemaker,
clicking seventy beats a minute
since the heart attack last November.

Each night as he struggles to sleep,
they debate their total control.

The respirator, heaving and sighing
with its whish thump voice
challenges him to live without it

while the electronic genius
inside his chest boasts its control
of pump and flow to every vital organ
he needs to survive.

This morning he scribbles
on a clipboard like a third grade child:
Why are you doing this to me?

-- William Henry Langhorne is the former
Poet Laureate of Northwest Florida.
He practices cardiology in Pensacola.
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