Night Shift

The charge nurse finds me wet
& shivering
in the supply closet

She shuts the door
flicks the light
looks at me the way
a mother looks at her child,
the kind of mother who eats
her young

She steps closer
(like I am cornered prey)
hands me a wad
of paper towels. This is not
an apology. This is a command
to finish what I started
to accept that I will
be devoured

When I was young, the charge nurse
says, a patient pulled a fist-full
of hair so hard he left a bald spot
at my crown. She tilts her head
lifts her synthetic wig
Beneath her stocking cap
I see naked scalp
fruitless earth
my future

I know women who are limping
I know women who are dead. Be grateful,
the charge nurse says
sliding the next patient’s medication
into my scrub top pocket,
the water wasn’t hot