“Sick Boy” by Simon Zuckert

Simon Zuckert (age 12)


Section I

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day!
I pick out a green tux shirt
And a shamrock hat

I hop out of my
car, and say goodbye to my mom,
and walk into school.

In the school hallways
the smell of cleaning products in the air
my nose knows so well.

It’s been a week since
I turned eleven, and I
Feel so much older.

I sprint down the hall,
filled up with adrenaline.
No one can stop me.

I finally reach
My fifth grade classroom, and I’m
Breathing heavily

I look at all of
My friends, who all look just as
Festive as I do

The classroom is a
Sea of shamrock headbands and
All shades of green clothes

Conversations start
McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes, and
Irish soda bread

Subjects fly by fast
Reading, math, social studies
It’s a perfect day …

Until I hear it.
The announcement comes over
Our room’s intercom

And I swallow hard
My palms are sweaty, and my
Stomach does a flip

I’m not excited
And I’m not nervous, either
I am just … confused

Am I in trouble?
Am I gonna go somewhere?
Is it a surprise?

The announcements that
Call people to the office
For dismissal, they …

Sometimes end well, and
Sometimes they don’t, and sometimes
The kids don’t return

I see Mom’s face through
The glass office walls, and she
Doesn’t look happy

Suddenly, I don’t
Feel so good as I slowly
Push open the door

I walk into the
Vestibule, and Mom hugs me
Now, I am surprised

I say, “Mom, what’s wrong?
Why are you acting like this?
Is something not right?”

“Simon, I need to
Take you to the ER, you
Have diabetes.”


Section II
One Day Earlier

“Simon, it’s time for
“Your camp physical,” Mom says
I say, “I’m ready”

I get in the car
To get my annual camp
Physical checkup

My sister and I
Are very excited for
Our overnight camp

It’s in Wisconsin
In a four hundred acre
Forest in the Dells

Our mom behind us,
My twin sister, Sydney, and
I exit the car

And we walk inside
The doctor’s office, sit down
Grab a magazine

Doctor calls our name
We walk through a long hallway
And kick our shoes off

My sister is first
To step onto the scale, and
She’s a normal weight

And then, I step on
I have lost ten pounds since our
Last visit here, and

Our last visit, where
I weighed ten pounds more, was three,
Yes, three, months ago

I am overjoyed!
Mom and the doctor are not
The doctor leads me

Further into the
Maze of twisting corridors
To a row of chairs

I sit down on the
Nearest chair, and the doctor
Says this is the lab

When it is my turn
I am lead into a small
Room that’s white and clean

With white cabinets
And clear glassware, it really
Does look like a lab

“We are going to
Take some blood tests, okay?” says
The doctor. I nod

Needles never did
Bother me. I even look
Forward to flu shots

After all, it means
That I am most likely not
Gonna get the flu.

Doctor ties a bright
Orange elastic band to

She pushes down on
The bend of my arm until
She finds a nice vein

The needle goes in
I don’t even flinch. My mom
Does, though. I chuckle

I watch my thick, dark
Blood flow from my arm into
Small plastic test tubes

Then, they ask for a
Urine sample. I take the
Cup to the bathroom

After I give the
Doctor my urine sample,
We’re ready to leave

I look at my mom
I say, “Do you think I’m fine?”
She says, “I hope so”


Section III
The Car

In our minivan
My mom gives me a lunch box
I look inside it

A chicken sausage
Rolled up in a tortilla
Berries, a cookie

The buildings speed by
As we drive down the highway
A colorful blur

I eat my lunch in
Utter and complete silence
Then, I start to cry

All this time I was
In shock, but now the full weight
Of it all hit me

Mom puts her hand on
My leg from the driver’s seat
“It’ll be alright”

I just sit there, and
Let the tears stream down my face
Helpless, scared, alone

This is how I feel
When our car pulls up to the
Emergency room


Section IV
The Emergency Room

First, we go into
A little back room where a
Man pricks my finger

He says it’s to check
The levels of sugar in
My blood. I’m nervous

Apparently, my
Blood sugar is in the four
Hundred seventies

I guess the average
Blood sugar is eighty to
One hundred twenty

Then, we are led to
A small hospital room in
The bustling ER

As soon as I am
In a hospital room, I
Turn on the TV

Which is challenging
Because they put the IV
In my right arm, which …

Just happens to be
My dominant arm. So, yeah
This day kind of sucks

Apparently, the
Amount of sugar in my
Blood is very high

A nurse comes in and
Says that I might need to go
To the ICU

I don’t understand
Mom says, “Means the intensive
Care unit.” I gulp

That doesn’t sound good
I look back to the TV
Teen Titans Go!’s on

I watch the premiere
Of the new Saint Patrick’s Day
Episode. It’s great

They decided that
I didn’t need to go to
The ICU. Nice …

Except they can’t get
Me a room upstairs, so I’m
Stuck in the ER …

For ten hours. Yes, stuck
In the tiny room, watching
TV for ten hours.

Finally, when my
Eyelids are heavy, they get
Me a room upstairs

I get out of bed
Stretch my legs, and we take the
Elevator up


Section V
The Hospital Room

I am dozing off
When the door to my new room
Slowly creaks open

In walks Papa Rick
My grandpa! And in his hand
A small deck of cards

I say hi to him
As he sits down in a large,
Rounded green armchair

“Papa Rick,” I ask
“What is the deck of cards for?”
“I’ll show you,” he says

He takes out the cards
And shows me a magic trick
I am astounded

He shows me again
I insist that he teaches
Me how to do it

After a while, we’re
All sleepy, and Mom is now
Asleep on the couch

I say good night to
Papa Rick, and go to sleep
Then, I’m woken up

IV woke me up because
I bent my right arm

Now Mom’s awake. A nurse comes
In to turn it off

And we fall asleep
Until we’re woken up by

Another nurse comes
In to turn off the loud and
Obnoxious beeping

Finally it is
Morning time, and Mom and I
Haven’t slept a wink

But our personal
Nurse, Pam, teaches us how to
Give insulin shots

Insulin: hormone
That helps you make energy
From the carbs you eat

But diabetics’
Bodies don’t make insulin
So we inject it

And so it was, I
Was in the hospital for
Two and a half days

Barely sleeping, yet
Learning an overload of
Medical info

Until finally
I was released, and I felt
Scared, but happy, too


Section VI
After The Hospital

I hear birds and cars
As I return to the world
And smell the fresh air

I think I am free
But I could not be more wrong
For my future’s dark

I still cry sometimes
Because I wish I could be
Normal, like my friends

But sometimes, out of
Something bad, can come something
Like a life lesson

Be grateful of the
Life you lead, because it can
Change in an instant

from 2019 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Simon Zuckert: “I write poetry because poetry is like music, and I love music. Music and poetry are similar because they are written words that can be put to a tune, they flow smoothly, and they conjure up imagery in your head, such as memories, thoughts, or feelings that can only be evoked by certain words. I also write poetry because it allows you to freely empty out onto paper whatever is on your mind, without it sounding so formal and organized like an essay. Writing poetry is something that everybody should try sometime in their life, even if they don’t think they’re good at it. It is one of those things like riding a bicycle, or playing an instrument. You may be nervous about it at first, but you’ll just get better at it from your starting point once you try writing poetry, and once you finish even your first piece of work, you will feel great achievement. These are some of the reasons why I write poetry, and I hope more people will be inspired to write just as I was.”

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