Things I Will Not Say by Rachel Mallalieu

Things I Will Not Say

Things I Will Not Say

by Rachel Mallalieu

In my emergency department,
if you only knew how many times
I wanted to say
Yes, you’re going to die.
Maybe even tonight and if not tonight,
then soon and if not soon,
it’s still coming.
Of course he suffered.
I can not imagine the surges
of red agony that colored
his final minutes.
Death was a relief after the bullet
ravaged the fragile tangle
of his intestines.
You’re partly to blame—
why didn’t you call 911 when the
chest pain began or when the headache
arched her neck backwards or when
she couldn’t breathe after the bad heroin.
You should’ve called when the baby
wouldn’t feed or when your father
vomited blood or when half her smile
fell and the words remained
cemented in her throat.
He did not go quietly.
He hoarsely whispered NO and tried
to push away something only he
could see and that’s the moment
his heart stopped.
I’ve never seen anything like it.

Before I tell you horrible things,
I open and close my jaw to relax my face.
I arrange my mouth into a neutral line.
Don’t worry, I’ll tell you it’s not
your fault and that he didn’t suffer;
I’ll let you think he slipped
away peacefully.
I’ll say you have a fighting chance—
miracles happen.
I’ll talk to you the way
I hope someone
talks to me.


Rachel Mallalieu is an English major turned emergency physician who practices medicine outside of Baltimore, MD. She married her college sweetheart, has five children, and always chooses the mountains over the beach.

Share this Post

Leave a Comment