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Clean of the body's hair,

I lie smooth from breast to leg.

All that was special, all that was rare is common here. Fact: death too is in the egg.

Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat.

And tomorrow the O.R. Only the summer was sweet.

The rooms down the hall are calling all night long, while the night outside sucks at the trees. I hear limbs falling and see yellow eyes flick in the rain. Wide eyed and still whole I turn in my bin like a shorn lamb.

A nurse's flashlight blinds me to see who I am.

The walls color in a wash of daylight until the room takes its objects into itself again. I smoke furtively and squash the butt and hide it with my watch and other effects.

The halls bustle with legs, I smile at the nurse who smiles for the morning shift. Day is worse.

Scheduled late, I cannot drink 01 eat, except for yellow pills and a jigger of water. I wait and think until she brings two mysterious needles: the skills she knows she knows, promising, soon you'll be out. But nothing is sure. No one. I wait in doubt.

I wait like a kennel of dogs jumping against their fence. At ten she returns, laughs and catalogues my resistance to drugs. On the stretcher, citizen and boss of my own body still, I glide down the halls and rise in the iron cage toward science and pitfalls.

The great green people stand over me; I roll on the table under a terrible sun, following their command to curl, head touching knee if I am able.

Next, I am hung up like a saddle and they begin.

Pale as an angel I float out over my own skin.

I soar in hostile air over the pure women in labor, over the crowning heads of babies being born.

I plunge down the backstair calling mother at the dying door, to rush back to my own skin, tied where it was torn.

Its nerves pull like wires snapping from the leg to the rib.

Strangers, their faces rolling like hoops, require my arm. I am lifted into my aluminum crib.

Skull flat, here in my harness, thick with shock, I call mother to help myself, call toe of frog, that woolly bat, that tongue of dog;

call God help and all the rest. The soul that swam the furious water sinks now in flies and the brain flops like a docked fish and the eyes are flat boat decks riding out the pain.

My nurses, those starchy ghosts, hover over me for my lame hours and my lame days. The mechanics of the body pump for their tricks. I rest on their needles, am dosed and snoring amid the orange flowers and the eyes of visitors. I wear, like some senile woman, a scarlet candy package ribbon in my hair.

Four days from home I lurk on my mechanical parapet with two pillows at my elbows, as soft as praying cushions. My knees work with the bed that runs on power. I grumble to forget the lie I ought to hear, but don't. God knows I thought I'd die — but here I am, recalling mother, the sound of her good morning, the odor of orange and jam.

All's well, they say. They say I'm better. I lounge in frills or, picturesque, I wear bunny pink slippers in the hall. I read a new book and shuffle past the desk to mail the author my first fan letter. Time now to pack this humpty-dumpty back the frightened way she came and run along, Anne, and run along now, my stomach laced up like a football for the game.

I want no pallid humanitarianism — If Christ be not God, I want none of him; I will hack my way through existence alone . ..

Guardini

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