By Emily Nason
And I can see them, see her
standing over the kitchen sink,
gray shrimp pinched———————————————–
and the up-flick of her knife.
———————————————–(No stories in this poem,
———————————————–Emily. Stay in the room.)
Right. Doctor’s white gloves.
Gardenia white. This is my hand
on your thigh. Unpruned oleander.
You’re going to feel a pinch.
———————————————–(Stay just a little while longer.)
Hot examination room.
Small country clinic with one broken
air conditioner. The doctor sees
retirees and pregnant housewives,
mainly. Once, a man who took
a tree trunk straight to the sternum.
———————————————–(He survived, remember?
———————————————–It’s not your story to tell.)
I’ve forgotten to take off my gold
hoops. In the corner, nude lace bra
and underwear crumpled
in the chair. A blue jumpsuit—
It has pockets! Pockets!—I wore
that night in Ohio, when I fell
and sprained a wrist bringing
a dozen fresh eggs to a friend,
no carton, just my pockets.
———————————————–(Stop. Back to your body, now.)
Another pinch. Give me one big
cough. Formaldehyde in the veins,
moonshine in the eyes. I’m alive.
From crotch to toes: a cramp.
———————————————–(There’s been worse pain.
———————————————–Move it along.)
You’ll have no problem later on.
You’ve got a great cervix.
———————————————–(All right. Just one. Keep
———————————————–it quick. Keep it light.)
I did fall in Ohio once,
but I wasn’t wearing that jumpsuit.
I know a woman who dropped
her toddler son on his head
and swore it caused his pill problem.
I’ve buried so many people in Ohio.
Its ice fields are bad for digging.
———————————————–(Back into the room.)
———————————————–(Can the brain go hoarse?)
I won’t tell you what else I did
in that jumpsuit in Ohio.
My grandmother once cut the curve
of a conch shell out of my foot
in the kitchen sink. She washed me
with Dial soap. Did not kiss me,
didn’t say a kind word.
———————————————–(No scar, though.)
Quarter of an hour: mossy washcloth
on forehead. I try to leave, but collapse
instead in the empty waiting room.
———————————————–(Always taking up space.)
The doctor won’t let me leave
until I get some color back and finish
one paper cup of sugar water. I do
what I’m told. And then I drive.
Doesn’t matter where, doesn’t matter
Emily Nason is from Columbia, South Carolina and has an MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. Her poetry has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere.
Originally appeared in NOR 29