No longer a threat to myself, I hold still
As a nurse sluices a sickly greenish

Liquid into a vein like I’m not a patient
But a receptacle, some alien’s urinal.

Everything is being taken from me
Like it’s nothing. It’s to protect

My personal items, they say, with
A tone of voice that infuriates me,

As if this deliberate divesting is a favor
Or perk, the hospital’s way of saying

Thank you for choosing us.
One of them has death breath; I think

It’s the Stepford nurse. Her teeth
Seem to be cutting a fresh slice of

Muenster every time she opens her
Mouth. A hint of cat in heat, too.

I’ve always loved bad breath, especially
When a companion assures me

It’s not me. So earthy. Like I’m on a dig.
So brazen. And always

Good for a surreptitious laugh —
Which can turn a gray day

Into a companionable one, where
You just want to hold hands.

So even as I wait to be
Imprisoned, from myself mostly,

The misty stench rolling off
The nurse’s red carpet of a tongue

Like a malignant fog off a bay
Is a gift. Amen for that, at least.

When I graduate Intake, papers
Signed & permissions given,

I am inhaled, muscled into the lungs
Of a building determined to hold

Its breath, the way my family
Holds theirs, desperate to know

What’s wrong with me.

Rex Wilder