Rachael amputates her patient’s leg with a saw.
Gratitude, she says, a sweet in the mouth.
Machines bleep where plants should be.
The patient animates, falls to the floor.
We lift the man, spread his skin back onto the sheets.
Rachael: A poem is a hospital bed.
Mid surgery, a lit cigarette under a palm frond. So lie in it.
Between us a rubix cube, white replacing blue, yellow.
A scalpel sharpens. Red.
Rachael grabs its tip. When a symbol cauterizes language
she pricks the cube into a star a poem becomes the page.
But look. Smoke rolls out my mouth. Every stanza:
failure is... failure was... failure must...
A flat line flutes the door open.
She rises to her feet. Then turn it into a song.
Back inside. The patient is mummified.
Rachael peels from his spine layer after layer of tissue.
Should we do anything else? I ask.
She cuts off his other leg, points at the middle of the wound.
Breathe here, she says.
A flame exits my mouth, honey-flavored.
Thanks, love. She hugs me.
The man’s body disintegrates. Rachael gestures me to the table.
I climb onto it to the saw’s buzzing.
5 AM alone in a room no air
face-down on a drained carpet of skin. In a mirror,
the vein in your left arm
syrups from the wound. You look like
shit I say. Really? You respond. I. Feel. Great.
You go to the bathroom, rinse your face
and float back into the room. Listen, you say.
A drip of water falls from your face
onto mine. My life is a battered fish
in a vat of bubbling oil. I crawl across the floor
and press my ear to the door. A sizzle.
You continue, but the oil keeps
getting colder. I wake
bare-spined against the tile floor of the kitchen
to the gentle wet of my breath.
Sea foam emerges between your lips. A fish bone
canoes down your chin, onto a black
and white square gently sparkling
with dawn’s light.
Photograph by Michael Howarth