Once, as a teenager, I called
my parents from the dungeon 
of a hospital’s laundry room,
with its bank of phone booths,
its humid heat, its rattling tumble
of dryers, to say their son was dead.

In the instant of trying to tell Mom
and hearing Dad in the background
I could not imagine the words to use,
could not explain the cold-hearted doctor
who evicted me from my brother’s room,
or my sister-in-law’s hugs or the nurse

who pulled my arm then put quarters in my palm
or the woman from housekeeping who
slotted the coins and asked for our number,
our number instilled in me from infancy,
the only one we ever had: 442 – 0406.
She dialed. I tried to remember why.