midtown hospital

i.
helicopters perched on midtown
hospital two blocks from my bed,
whirring like metal bugs, descending
on the critical, the maybe
savable. it’s the loudest
at night: the heart’s favorite time
to call it quits. i can’t ignore
the question of who: whose
body fits the gurney, whose
face pulled open with pain,
what parts remain
intact. what if it’s a body
i know. what if i don’t find out
til morning.

ii.
mom had freakish emt stories
i asked for again, and again.
how many times can i hear
construction worker with a pole
dropped straight through his skull,
still living, walking, just suddenly
unable to bend. or motorcyclist
like a piece of paper folded
down the middle, licked, and ripped
by asphalt: reduced, suddenly, by half.
there is nothing to learn
from this except accidental violence
is one way to go. (i check my head
for holes gone unnoticed, continued
completeness of my limbs.)
that sometimes you are dead
before you know it.

iii.
i have never lost anyone, except
a saxophone teacher (after just
one lesson together) whose lungs
filled with blood gone hard
after anesthesia. i think
about him at least once
or twice a year but remember him
dead. how is it i remember everyone
i’ve ever known who died but so few
others? this loss of acquaintances is
a conversational commodity,
a place to direct scheduled
sadness, share in the peripheral grief.

iv.
each night is merciless
in its uncertainty—who
will make it to morning, whose phone
will ring with the news.
i think about how my mom coughs
thick after waking, my dad walks
off center and my love carries lumps
of fat or tumor beneath skin.
it’s never been one of them
skyborne, suspended by rotors
and so much air, but only
by chance. maybe i am ruined
by the lack of loss—i just need
something big to go. one example
of permanent absence i lived
after.

Advertisements

(anxious)

it is feeling my heart like a rattlesnake
on and off again somewhere i can’t
touch or quite understand. was that too
long off or too long on i’m unsure. i am
too afraid of my own body, of it’s ability
to fail. just one wrong piece at the top
of the row of dominos. the waterfall.
i turn on everything: the television,
the computer, phone. every light in this
little room. it is so bright but still not
enough. sitting in myself hurts. sitting
hurts. i try to climb anywhere but inside
and can’t.

sugar high

i spend the whole afternoon making cakes
you won’t eat. they all turn trash differently.
the lemon turns dark where it touches air,
the blue-gray of storm clouds. the pumpkin:
frosting turns sour first. the carrot — each bit
of shaved vegetable starts to grow mold,
the rest of the cake remains. i try to read the rot
like tarot. i am not sure what this means for us.
i imagine i am getting better which does
nothing. i imagine you are getting better at handling me
which does worse than nothing. when the mold
overwhelms them, i leave heaps in the front yard.
the city animals ride the sugar high for days,
careening across the telephone wires and falling asleep
wild-eyed under tires. the street in front of our house
is part asphalt part fur. you say the city should clean up
this public death. you feel the dried, flat skins
on your body like punishment. you should have
just eaten the cake. i had to make them,
crowding us out of our small kitchen like artifacts
from a happy life. i am fooling no one. when i stand
on our porch the road screams with a dozen toothy mouths.

panic attack in the theater

all at once my stomach starts trying to crawl out my mouth.
little hands pulling itself up my esophagus, one length
at a time. it burns like acid reflux but I can feel the fingers.

when it cannot get out, it acts like a child – a tantrum against my ribs.
I don’t know how to understand this, the organs revolting
while my body tries to tell me it is dying.

vision like an eclipse through a keyhole, there is no winning here.
when my stomach finally crests the hill of my throat,
I feel tiny fists beating the backs of my teeth.

not quite panic

it is like sandpaper on wrists, like
finding a small dead thing
on your body and knowing
it has to stay.

it is like molars grinding insulation, like
the cardboard part of the toilet
paper roll found its way into the throat.

it is like digesting lightbulbs, like
threads wrapped around intestine –
pulled tight enough, thin string cuts
almost anything.

(Day 12): Professor

suit jacket pulled across his shoulders every day
since he turned 12, chalk smoothed arms
white against dark tweed, the smell of resale shops.

phone to ear with the life insurance agent,
she questions his propensity for risk taking:
do you regularly engage in activities like
surfing, down hill skiing, skydiving?
the sweat gathers in puddles where skin meets collar,
muscles in his thighs spasm so strongly
he is forced into sitting.

layers to keep out Wisconsin winter, stiff wools
to keep his back straight.
he uses words like emotional-
ly unhealthy and philosopher
and father
to describe his outline on asphalt.

(Day 11): Thoughts when the boy next to me has better nails

i cannot pull my fingers from my mouth.
they taste like oranges, wool thread, rust.

his are rounded like the print of wetness
ocean makes on sand, painted metal blue.

i cannot criticize how his boy hands handle
the can of cold coffee. i imagine his cuticles

taste of saltlick. like the cow in midwestern summer
I am tethered by my tongue.