Some wit asked me
if I was having my cat scanned,
and that kind of pissed me off
because he stole my line.
How does he know whether I have cats?
He goes in for his scan.
They give me a drink of iodine solution.
You always dislike in others
that which is most in yourself.
He comes out.
The woman across from me is afraid
I don’t like that fear in her, much;
oh, she’s nice enough,
but she is facing removal of a kidney
because of a benign tumor
that is taking over.
What’s benign about that?
I don’t know whether to be jealous that
she doesn’t have cancer
or to dislike her for her fear.
I am a charitable guy and decide on the fear.
Another draft of iodine.
They take me away to put a shunt into
the bulging vein in my inner elbow.
I have a jovial joshing contest with the nurse;
I am witty, fearless. I return to my cold chair.
Another guy, an ex-student,
sits and talks to me for half an hour
making his success in life clear to me—
he ignores his fear; I like him.
Twenty minutes along,
the technican steps into the waiting area
where the prisoners all sit freezing
in our hospital gowns and socks
and asks what he’s still doing here.
“I was enjoying the conversation,”
he says, and continues telling me stuff.
I like him. More people arrive, change
fearfully into their patient uniforms
(they must be patient, they lie folded on shelves
without complaint.) I hate them, jovially.
Now I know what my cats feel at the vet’s.
I smell the fear; I hate this place, too.
More iodine to drink. It used to be for cuts:
stung like bee-stings on a scraped knee.
I think of Socrates, having a swig of hemlock.
I like Socrates: my kind of guy.
They go in; they come out; my turn.