I went to see the neurosurgeon today to discuss the weather. Not really. But in the end, ain't it all sunshine or storm? Aren't those the rubs with variations of degree and density? So yeah, we talked about the weather and like most meteorologists we could not be certain. But in the end, ain't certainty just a stalling tactic for fate? So why guess . . . cuz it'll come. It certainly will.
At any hoo, I was reminded of this poem. I wrote it several years ago and one of the motifs regards age and youth and illnesses' disregard for either. (Thus the broad brush.) The poem was written long after I first started being a regular in brain-doctor waiting rooms; but the idea had been around from the beginning. Because back then and for the longest while, there was a ninety-five percent chance that yours truly was gonna be the baby in the bunch. Sometimes it was a depressing thought, other times a hopeful one.
So today, in the waiting room, going about the usual business of pretending to read a magazine from 2005 and trying to figure if there was time to go potty before my name got called, I noticed that I was not the youngest patient there. I was not the oldest, either. Somewhere in the middle, I guess. But that was not the point. The point was that one day, I would be the oldest.
There's a lesson there and I can't quite put my finger on it. Or maybe it's not a lesson at all--just an actuality. That sounds right. Besides, ain't actuality just a lesson yet to be learned; cuz when it comes, full-feathered in actualness, don't you just know you knew it all along?
Broad Brush (Neuro-Oncology, Basement Floor)
On walkers with tennis-ball feet, the old escort the older.
A man with a mummy-wrapped head stumbles like a drunk.
People in your lap, you smell the faint, wet-wood odor
of magazines. You peel stuck pages, but you aren’t reading.
A nurse in blue scrubs calls for Joseph Stallins—mildly funny
until you see the scar on his skull, temporal to parietal,
black-blood crusted and stapled like upholstery. And the old
keep hobbling, filling the sunken seats and sofas. You all
get ten minutes older between each clipboard roll-call.
Then it’s you watching the blue scrubs shift stiffly at the nurse’s
back and rump, answering questions lobbed over her shoulder.
Weight, temperature, pressure, pulse taken and jotted, she leaves
you alone on the papered, not-quite-bed. It’s just you feeling
young again—rightly twenty-something, here for a cough
and an ahhh. Out there where the sick are just getting old,
is all, where God paints with His broadest brush, you were in line,
queued for bad news, and in your hundreds. In here, though,
where accolades are hung in gilded frames, where the wallpaper
is white with clouds against an azure sky . . . In here, you rifle
through the drawers, fiddle with the forged-steel implements
and spongy gauze, free to feel in your twenties, hell, in your single
digits, free to feel not so bad after all and sorry for Joseph Stallins.