Outside I train my eye boat
for the safe place to land
in a city sprouting after the rain,
where the arroyo drags shopping carts
to the suburbs and plastic bags drape its low branches
like forlorn tulips. The ark of life
sails by, too, pushing land
away, pressing down the beds, wringing
out the alleyways. It’s like this
with you and I, the before
composted with the after, the marigolds
and plaids mixed with the whites.
And all this, the grackles line up
on their high wires to watch,
basking after the rain,
seeding clouds deep
in our mind’s almanac.
We present were all gowned and draped. Hands shortly thereafter found themselves in Latex, catgut looped around a clamp, and capillaries groaning for corpuscles. Snap. Snap. Three-O-silk tie. No limbs on the lower shelf, please. Hung a bag of Lactated Ringers. (I found this finger but I don’t know to whom it belongs.) Our nerves were inadvertently transected while gaining control of a complicated diathesis. Sterile precautions informed us otherwise. A pulse ox became pale. When it ruptured, the ventricle was rapidly dissembled and sent for autoclave processing. Estimated blood loss accumulated interest. From all auscultations, pagers beeped. Reticulated arms encountered diastole reaching its nadir. Our loupes distended when third-spacing occurred. Tissue sealers and monofilaments secured. Per protocol, we cauterized as we went, diverted all fluids to interstitial spaces. Alligators clamped, please. Suction blocked successfully and complications averted. Everything staged intra-operatively and bony sequestrae sent to pathology labeled otherwise. Closing time: under tension, all edges nicely approximated.
Before I die, I would love to know the proper placement of salad and steak forks. The Chinese pistachio I’ve planted won’t grow nuts and I’m afraid I’ll never fall far from the tree. It’s no sin to plant a weed garden. I’ve staked my spirit in the yard where stones are basted into the border. Our heavily implanted dogs don’t stray far or they develop doggie permanents at the fenceless shock fence. Lonely perimeters are what we have. At the end, my grandfather stayed in a turn-of-the-century-home-for-the-elderly. The garage had a lazy Susan for the cars that couldn’t go in reverse. Before they could back up. Before his mind stuck in reverse. Humble pie, he used to say. I could only feed him chocolates then. Such pleasure in his rheumy, vacuous eyes despite a spine contorted as a paper clip. A younger version of me tacks paper in cupboards and wears his dark-rimmed glasses. When I think about it, I’d rather be seduced in space than lost. The stars far outnumber the dust motes.
There’s something in the spleen of a so-called brain
that prefers to sate itself on stories—
of lost sandwiches found in the folds of
four-hundred pound women or the man
with cockroaches nesting in a hole
in his face, how he droppered
alcohol in his ears to keep them from bouncing
on his eardrum’s trampoline. There will always be
a creep dressed in her own language,
a cretin in satin, puttering
in a white coat and badge holding a tongue depressor,
wearing long, white gloves. A lady once
brought me a Mason jar filled with a year’s worth
of dried mucus from her nose and mouth.
See the little flecks of red, she said, that’s
what I really wanted to show you.
The spittle dried up and rolled around
like little rocks. I saved it.
I used to run away when I was ten
to the river where water slapped
Now I’m a slowly moving island moving
farther from my eruption.
Split down the middle.
A green-tiled hospital corridor and a night
when a young woman’s family paced
waiting to hear—
maybe she walked miles that day carving
the air with her hands. Trying to make
the bird in her thoughts
while vets with laryngectomies
smoked silently in the canteen,
little birds nailed to trees. In your coffin,
are you allowed to dress in grey?
I walk on a trembling cave bridge
underground. Eyeless fish swim beneath me.
Fish happy to never surface
completely. Removing a bandage
from an amputee, maggots crawl.
over his stump. Only I can feel them. He stands
on his other leg and loses his bladder on me.
Only now I feel the warmth trickling down
my own leg. His eyes wet. In this recurring dream
I’m inside my old house exploring
new rooms added since I’ve left.
Through large windows, people look into my bedroom.
I’m part of the old surgical theater, etherized
a tinny blood taste on my tongue
Yet I remain in this house when they lift
its sagging foundation, sighing and creaking.
people without my gloves on,
without a mask. I breathe them. At autopsy,
I hold the calcified heart of a young child. Inside
the heart is an eggshell. Inside
the eggshell a little bird.
Is that the same child
who asked me if
there are bones in heaven?
lives in Dallas with her husband and two sons. She is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon) and is completing an MFA in creative writing (poetry) at Vermont College in July, 2007. Her poetry has appeared in Sojourn, TEX!, and the anthology Body Language.