First Panic

I remember
My hands going numb
And the scent
Of that musty basement
While thinking of John
In his casket
Just before screaming
For help.

Our guests upstairs
Wouldn’t know
Until sirens blared
Even closer,

Drowning out noise
Getting lower
As an ambulance wailed
Soon behind

When July 4th laughs
Became moans
And barbecue smoke
Obscured faces
Worried how mom
Began screaming
While my uncles
Carried me limp

Onto pillows
Covered with sweat
Where my beating heart
Kept on racing,

Caught breathless
Imagining needles
Piercing both legs
Sensing pins.

It was summer
Of 2010.

Not a day had passed
Since you left me,

Standing up front
While your parents
Told the church
Their son had met God.

I carried your coffin
With friends,

Stayed silent
Through solemn dinner,

Then cried all night
Despite worrying
The vomit just might
Never cease.

That following day
Was surreal.

I couldn’t even
Hold down soda,

Or a piece of bread
Being offered
By those caterers
Scared I seemed sick.

Such nausea
Persisted so long,

Accompanying scenes
Still repeating,

Growing like weeds
Over flowers
Dying from roots
Feeling starved.

Though shocked,
The answer made sense –

There was no choice
Besides panic
To explode
Hiding seething frustration
Falsely composed
Under loads

Far too harsh
For this soul
Growing real fast
Gaining pressure
Rapidly built
Asking questions
Stealing innocence
Lost overnight,

More than grief
Would explain
Or fear itself
Should endanger
Wishing illness
Held genuine meaning
Besides our deaths
Always sad.

The hospital said
I should eat.

They sent me home
After waiting.

Watching fireworks
Bordered betrayal,

Knowing safety
Forever had changed.

  • J. Pigno

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