Tegan Daly

“Trauma Center,” by Tegan Daly, details the night a dear friend passed. Daly describes the night spent anxiously in the waiting room. The night began normally, just another bar fight…


Location: 222 Pearl St.

Hi there, this is Tegan Daly reading “Trauma Center,” third-prize winner in the 2017 Hear, Here Poetry Contest. This poem is about my experience of a night La Crosse lost a dearly-loved member of its community. The poem seeks to express the very specific experience of understanding that sometimes the only thing you can do in a situation you have no control over is to be present and though you may feel powerless, your determination to simply be there can be the most significant expression of love.

Trauma Center

It wasn’t really raining the night Clynt died. It was misting.
The kind of rain you feel
as a present dampness and notice swirling
around in the glow of the streetlights.
Those silences and pacing and bad coffee in the waiting
room were like highway hypnosis: at some point you’d snap
out of it. Wonder how you got there without hurting someone.

Word spread and twelve of us total,
all baristas and bartenders and servers,
just getting off work, tatooed, tired, tips in our pockets,
sat on the linoleum floor in the halls,
curled on the couches in the waiting room.
Fluorescent lights illuminating the long silences between us.

I had walked by the ambulance below the apartment on Pearl Street
after my shift at the brewery,
assumed there was a bar fight. Chose not to linger with the onlookers.
When I heard “he did it again,” I went home and smoked on the porch
and let the mist gather in droplets in my hair.

The phone rang.
In an hour it would be me making that phone call,
standing outside, out of earshot of his mother, his little sister.
Wondering if what I was saying was even true.
My eyes meeting eyes of hurried strangers approaching
the double sliding glass doors.