Emergencies by Jo Angela Edwins


In the hospital room
where no one can adjust
the broken blinds,
it’s hard to understand
the time of day.
My sister knows me
and little else.
She wants to borrow my phone
to call heaven, she says,
to tell our mother
how I won’t listen
to a thing she says.
She will not take the pills
from the nurse’s hand
or from mine.

On my way home I use
the phone I did not let her hold
to dial 911 when I see
a truck on the side of the road
in flames. The smoke reaches
into the afternoon blue
beyond the tops of the pines.
Even in my closed car
I can smell the chemicals burn.

People who know what to do,
or think they do,
are stopping. A woman runs
away from the truck. A man
runs toward it. I drive by slowly,
try to guess the distance
to the next marker. I tell the voice
on the other side of the line
what I’ve seen. He asks again
and again. Every time
I say the same thing, all the while
gunning my own engine,
putting distance between
myself and the growing fire
I can no longer see.


Jo Angela Edwins has had poems published in over 100 journals and anthologies and is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize, and Bettering American Poetry nominee. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016 (Finishing Line Press), and her collection A Dangerous Heaven is forthcoming this year from Gnashing Teeth Publishing. She is the poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina.

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