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, 

persisting qui


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