Friday, March 8, 2013

broad brush (neuro-oncology, basement floor)

This poem is several years old and the sentiment is another ten or so years older.  The "you" in this piece is roughly me in my twenties.  It's a tale as old as doctor's office waiting rooms, a tale of disparate characters in the proverbial same boat.

On Monday for the umpteenth, I go back for more waiting--older, as always, than the last time, and more likely to be in the median age range as opposed to a relative youngster.  In that sense, this poem is a time capsule, a few lines to commemorate an epoch of awkward commiseration.  In a related sense, though, this poem is a testament to the ongoing appropriateness of its theme in which the "you" is roughly anyone.

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 a crisp, blue 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.

(first published in Blood and Thunder, Fall 2010)

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