Passing Out

The doctor fingers my bruise.
"Magnificent," he says, "black
at the edges and purple
cored." Seated, he spies for clues,
gingerly probing the slack
flesh, while I, standing, fazed, pull

for air, losing the battle.
Faced by his aged diploma,
the heavy head of the X-
ray, and the iron saddle,
I grow lonely. He finds my
secrets common and my sex

neither objectionable
nor lovely, though he is on
the hunt for significance.
The shelved cutlery twinkles
behind glass, and I am on
the way out, "an instance

of the succumbed through extreme
fantasy." He is alarmed
at last, and would raise me, but
I am floorward in a dream
of lowered trousers, unarmed
and weakly fighting to shut

the window of my drawers.
There are others in the room,
voices of women above
white oxfords; and the old floor,
the friendly linoleum,
departs. I whisper, "my love,"

and am safe, tabled, sniffing
spirits of ammonia
in the land of my fellows.
"Open house!" my openings
sing: pores, nose, anus let go
their charges, a shameless flow

into the outer world;
and the ceiling, equipped with
intelligence, surveys my
produce. The doctor is thrilled
by my display, for he is half
the slave of necessity;

I, enormous in my need,
justify his sciences.
"We have alternatives," he
says, "Removal..." (And my blood
whitens as on their dull trays
the tubes dance. I must study

the dark bellows of the gas
machine, the painless maker.)
"...and learning to live with it."
Oh, but I am learning fast
to live with any pain, ache,
growth to keep myself intact;

and in imagination
I hug my bruise like an old
Pooh Bear, already attuned
to its moods. "Oh, my dark one,
tell of the coming of cold
and of Kings, ancient and ruined."

by Philip Levine

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