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Poem: "The Hardest Part" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Hardest Part"
This poem is one of several that followed a Superman comic and a discussion with johnpalmer on the nature of superhero work ... and its limitations.  It has been sponsored by janetmiles.  It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: The following poem contains intense and serious topics. The following poem contains college-related distress, failure, character death, depression, and the aftermath of witnessing trauma. If these are sensitive topics for you, please think carefully before deciding whether to read onward.

The Hardest Part


I'm walking home from the gym
when I see a guy ahead of me
step into the crosswalk
in front of the Blue-1 bus.

"Hey, watch out!" I yell,
but he has his head down,
not paying attention.

I run toward him,
and I hear the brakes squeal,
but I'm too slow
and the bus is too fast.

He goes down
with a thump and a crunch,

and I'm yelling for Clement
before I even get to the guy's side.


I crouch beside the accident victim,
and already I can tell it's not good,
blood bubbling red at the corners of his mouth.

"Call an ambulance,"
I tell the gathering crowd,
because I've got my hands full.

My gift shrills a warning,
so much damage I hardly know where to start.

Airway, breathing, circulation,
I remind myself,
but I never get all the way through
even the short list.

He keeps losing the airway,
and every time he stops breathing
I have to reopen it,
which means I can't do much else.

The pool of blood on the pavement
just keeps getting wider and wider.

He stops breathing
just as the ambulance wails to a stop

and I stand aside for the crew
to do what they can for him
but I know they're not getting him back.


People are staring,
so I come out to weave illusions,
distractions, anything I can do
to make it possible to slip away.

I hurry home,
strip off the bloody clothes
and throw them in the garbage --
there's no way any of us
will want to wear those again --
then step into the shower.

I imagine bathing in a jungle grotto,
conjure images of waterfalls and ferns.
It helps me hold together
just long enough to get clean and dry off.


Mira loses her grip in the bathroom,
so it's up to me to walk back to the bedroom
and find fresh clothes to put on.

Then I lie down on the bed
and go to work.

Clement may have gotten
the first aid training but
most of the coping skills came to me.

The hardest part of being a student responder
is understanding that you can't save everyone.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try,
people just slip out of your reach.

The hardest part of being a hero
isn't facing the villains;
it's facing the people you couldn't save.

Everyone in this line of work
has to find some way of coping with that.
I think of the ones we have saved, and will save.

I can handle emotional pain
as well as physical pain.
I focus on the riptide of heartache --
grief, shock, guilt, regret --
and work on channeling it
into something we can use
instead of drowning under the rush.


I deal with the aftermath,
getting everything organized again.

I find out that the accident victim
is indeed dead, as Clement suspected.
Apparently he'd been having problems
and likely didn't notice the warning or the bus.

We're still wobbly inside
from the shock of losing someone like that,
so I make appointments
at the Student Health Center.

Maybe it will help
for Clement and Keane
to talk with someone.


I'm the one who winds up going
to the Student Health center,
but that's okay,
because I like Jason
and he's pretty good about helping
with rough experiences in first aid.

Failure is a fact of life;
I know that better than anyone.
The hardest part isn't failing,
but picking yourself up afterwards.

Keane spends so much time
working through what happened,
he's too exhausted to step forward
and talk with Jason.

Clement hasn't come out of his room
since the accident.

I thought it would be easier
with one less person
rambling around the headspace,
but it's not.

Funny how you can miss someone,
when you thought you wanted to be alone.
I do miss him, though.

I think the others do, too,
because they're mostly
hiding in their rooms.

So now it's just me
trying to fake my way
through everything,
and Keane dealing with all the pain.

So much pain.

It's hard to believe
how much you can hurt
for someone you didn't even know.

* * *


Accidents between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian can be very traumatic.  There are first aid tips for bystanders and suggestions for avoiding or surviving a collision as a pedestrian.

ABC is the short-short list of first aid steps in order of urgency.  If you can't get all the way through that, the victim's chance of survival is low.  There are much more advanced checklists for trauma care under risky conditions, which address the respective importance of respiration and bleeding, but that's beyond Clement's current level of training.

Superheroes often feel compelled to help people.  No matter how you try, you can't save everyone, so it's also important to understand how to overcome failure.  You can still make a difference in many ways, depending on your interests and abilities.

Absent-mindedness can occur alone or as part of a larger problem.  Depressed or anxious people may have difficulty recognizing threats in their environment.

After a trauma, it's important to take care of yourself.  Even a stranger's death or suicide can be very upsetting.  There are ways to cope with loss or pain.

Missing someone is a common experience that can be dealt with in various ways.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: December 20th, 2013 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That's a thing to wake up to.

I'm going to have to circle back and read the reference section. I hope I don't need it anytime soon, but you never know when someone might get, well, hit by a bus.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 21st, 2013 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)


>> Wow. That's a thing to wake up to. <<

Yeah, that's more like a cold shower than a cup of coffee. 0_o

>> I'm going to have to circle back and read the reference section. I hope I don't need it anytime soon, but you never know when someone might get, well, hit by a bus. <<

One thing I hope to accomplish with Polychrome Heroics is teaching that anyone can be a hero. You don't need superpowers. You just need compassion, situational awareness, and some basic crisis skills for whatever kind of situation you think you'd be inclined to help with. I'm glad that's working for you.
2 comments or Leave a comment