~This poem was previously published in The Ledge (2011).
Splayed on a table,
brow knitted against the light,
I hold my breath in the frigid room
where a white machine whines and hums,
its tedious song lulling, the shadow
of its calibrated arm passing over me,
slow, telic—an ancient gesture.
O deliver me from mechanical chants,
from keypad-decoded maledictions
transforming on black screens
into elegant images: this one,
a slim chain of white lace descending,
delicate, serpentine, its loose crochet
a portent of my unraveling.
A technician studies this apparition,
scrying Cassandra-like in a veil of pixels
the doom she must soon pronounce.
But I’ve already seen the future, minutes ago
in the crowded waiting room, a woman so curled
by vertebral collapse she could not look up,
wedged like an ill-used comma
between the daughter and grandson
commandeering both armrests,
the former thumbing House and Garden,
the latter the latest hand-held device.
The white-robed technician has typed a code,
zoomed in on my upper spine, pointing
to a cosmic image so riddled with black holes
it has all but vanished. “Crush fractures,”
she announces. The once-erect matriarch
still hugs herself in the waiting room, quietly
imploding, reduced to the reading of shoes.
“See?” the technician summons, holes
gaping at me like mouths of hungry infants,
the forced air sucked from the room.
I don’t see, can’t augur
what goes against nature. Flesh sags,
organs fail, but bones—O let them endure,
let them hold us together to the end and beyond
that they may be licked clean and weathered
to white crystal, their messages scribed
in the fossil record: dependable,