By Zeynep Uzumcu
Something persistently crooked
about the formal patient presentation:
those words turn away from completeness
like the wrong-set bone that bears weight,
the thick scar across a lip, the wringing sadness
of Billie Holiday’s Good Morning Heartache.
Pain takes on its reedy elegance
differently from one to the next:
the cachexic patient
whose shortness of breath means
the room is not big enough for me,
whose breath retracts itself
around the scaffolding of the chest,
whose hands sweep along
the shape of his smothering
in the air between us.
After I sit with him,
I consider the correct words
that may approximate his coordinates
within that thicketed and arduous
territory of hurting.
And when I present him to the attending,
the requirement for clean incandescence
of information, respect for parsimony
of language and time.
but how to produce light
with words that seem a half-spent matchbook,
barely enough to light margins?
And what is omitted: the wordless
dark swell of a space I cannot touch.
It desiccates with time.
More fills a smaller space.
Later, on my way home:
I stand in a fluorescent elevator
filled with strangers,
and in my winter-coat pocket my fingers find
a small, dried yellow leaf
left from a season ago,