About the poems:

I work as a paramedic responding to a variety of emergencies.  People always ask "What's the worst thing you've ever seen?"  I usually reply blandly and tell a funny 9-1-1 story instead.  But sometimes on scene of a trauma or medical call, a writing prompt is thrust into my head and I begin to craft a poem, especially since we don't usually get to see the aftermath of every injury.  Did the person survive?  How was the family notified if they did or didn't?  How did they respond to the news?  I write it out as part of my own healing process to defuse some of the bad things I see, continuing their narrative arc with my own imaginings.

​​Paramedics see people at their worst and it could just be a moment from disease or addiction, but you always wonder what happens to them afterwards.  Sometimes on the ambulance we see these people again and again, their recovery, rehab and regression.  Sometimes they get better with therapy and medication, maybe they continue on to a better quality life.  Sometimes the downward spiral is inexorable.  We are there for the moments when they fall apart and hopefully we pick up enough pieces to get them back on the right path in the short introduction we have with them.  I write to make believe the rest of their story.

The artist's space.

Truth Serum

She sits there all slit wrists

                              and stormy make-up
plastered on beer-frizzed hair

                A beautifully marooned disaster
of dried blood on spotted blouse
                sporting chest abrasion zigzags

                she made with tiny razor blade cuts
as if she was trying to trace the circuitous
                sagging arches and hidden chambers

of her unfeeling, malfunctioning heart,
                an American organ of red-blue sadness
coming and going in mental waves of pill-

damp illness begotten by a societal question
                I dare not answer in fear of schizophrenic
conversation so I tenderly bandage

                her superficial wounds after coaxing
the knife from her hand out the kitchen
                into the ambulance, handcuffed for 

a health evaluation and she doesn’t like
                how I am smiling the entire time
as if I know something she’s missing,

now napping, chemically restrained, 
                the bubbling needlepoint of Versed 
capped behind my finger-crossed back,

                readying for another injection,
wishing I could share in
                her peaceful, temporary amnesia

Your Hair


I collect curlicue tangles
scattered various places,
set them atop tables
in spindly heaps 
of angled remembrance

The wiry ones from your brush,
scented in shampoo and perfume
The soap-scummed interlace 
the tiny shower drain

Breeze-spun dust twirls, 
ghost hair swept 
off the hardwood floor
into the corner of the empty house
I resonate in alone

And lastly, 
the matted stiff bits
lodged in the windshield
at the wrecking yard
full of glass shard where

your high-speed head 
starred the interior
during the collision, strands and chips
smattered about like decapitated
wedding rings, lumpy pebbles,

spider legs of gory hair
and strips of pallid skin,
of bone crunch and laminate, of flesh
lacerate and sad story and trauma,
upturned purse and personal articles

everywhere but all I see in the mess
is your hair in the deflated airbag, 
scraped off the vinyl seats 
and blood-crumbed upholstery.
I return home knowing

your haunting hair
will never go away like you did,
so I continue searching 
for every stray thread I can find
to reweave you

Joe Amaral

Murder Two, Winter 2015

Crow Hollow Books

Crow Hollow 19