Let us go then, you and I,
when the evening is spread out against the sky,
like a patient etherized upon the table. T.S. Eliot
I told a woman at the radiation treatment center
that I had warmed up the table for her.
We cannot have a sheet, blanket, mattress or pad
under us because staff have to eliminate any
variables that will affect the calibration
and positioning of the arms that wheel
over us burning their beneficent invisible
passage through our skin to the cancer.
The hardness of the table and the head rest
and in the case of thyroid, throat and brain
malignancies the plastic helmet they clamp
on our faces, through whose colander
holes we breathe, our shoulders buckled in,
fit us to be cosmonauts within our planetarium,
blue lights screaming through the smallest
of apertures. We swallow just before
the mask is lowered should both nostrils ever
close we can guppy scant air through our mouths.
We clasp the rubber ring across our chests
on the fair ride we were dare deviled into.
We are aligned perfectly for the mortuary.
Retractable as the longest of drawers.
About half way into it swallowing becomes
painful, and I’m told to call the pharmacy never
again do I try to take two pills at once, choker
scar where the second operation was aborted,
fill line on a measuring jar, hoarser than ever.
Powdered fine enough I’ll snort them like cocaine.
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw, John Milton
~ Bob Elmendorf
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