The technician in the aqua lab coat
called the balding guy
with the slightly bleeding
shunt in the crook of his arm,
with whom I had commiserated
about the insipid iodine solution
we were both drinking:
he departed the tiny room,
one hand holding together
the back of his hospital gown.
Did I hear people in the corridor?
I added a three-armed gown
to my exhortations of the universe
almost as important then as
world peace, an end to global warming
a cure for cancer or whatever was growing
around the mystery shadows in my gut:
O, to depart for my CT scan
with my hairy ass inside the gown.
Primitive calm still held together
by a shirt and a hand-knit sweater
corduroy trousers, shoes and socks
and a thin glow of perspiration,
I focused on my paperback:
El Magnifico was about to face the bulls,
and I the current task: two beakers
of iodine to come. I knew the drill.
A pair of women joined the party:
an elderly patient whose husband
died twenty-seven years ago,
and her friend whose husband
followed suit last year.
They related their mishaps with
the care and feeding of dogs
gifted by anxious relatives
who did not want them to live alone.
Soon the elder’s beverage arrived,
and we briskly debated whether
the insipid, slightly metallic fluid
tasted more like dilute bad wine
or dilute bad pee. I said
El Magnifico would have told us
to suck lemons and salt
and pretend it was bad tequila.
We subsided into meditation
as one does in waiting rooms.
The technician handed me
a loosely folded pale green cloth something.
In that booth, take off everything
but your shoes, socks, and underpants.
Do you know how to put on
a three-armed gown?
Donning my three-armed suit of lights
was easy: shrug into the first two arms
as usual, then wrap the remainder across the front,
slide my arm into the third sleeve.
When I emerged from the cubicle
the older widow regarded the layers
of shirt, pants, undershirt
shelved on my forearms—
Your wife has you well-trained:
I could never get my husband to fold
she shuddered as if something cold
I sat facing her in my three-armed gown
trying to keep my hairy knees together.
The flat pile of clothes became a table
for my fists, which felt disconnected
from me, they should be holding burgers or beer;
they should be holding a muleta
I wanted to see her
fifty years ago, across a crowded corrida,
her index finger tracing her full red lips
instead of worrying the rim of the empty
paper cup. I went back further:
I was eating lunch at Jimmy’s place
and had finished my beef stew but Jimmy’s mother
looking at her ration books noticed that
Jimmy hadn’t touched his
and she was going to open her mouth
and the words were going to come out
and drive an espada right down the table.
I don’t know, I just folded them
and her husband hadn’t finished his
and the damn three-armed gown
was making me keep my knees together.
corrida: a bull fight
muleta: red cloth on a stick, used in the final stages of a bull fight