The technician in the aqua lab coat
summoned the balding guy
with the slightly bleeding
shunt in the crook of his arm,
with whom I had commiserated
about the insipid iodine cocktail
we were both sipping:
he departed clutching at
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:
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 shirt and 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 my current task: two beakers
of iodine to swig.
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
dogs gifted by anxious relatives
who seemed to think furry distraction
was better than none.
Soon the elder’s beverage arrived,
and we gaily debated whether
the tepid, slightly metallic fluid
tasted more like dilute bad wine
or dilute bad pee. I ventured
El Magnifico would have us
suck lemons and salt and pretend
it was dilute bad tequila.
We subsided into our respective
waiting room meditations.
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 fling the remainder
across the front, turn and thrust
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
pressing 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 proffering a muleta
or thrusting an espada grande.
I wanted to notice her
fifty years ago across a crowded corrida,
her index finger tracing her full red lips
instead of worrying the rim of the empty
I was eating lunch at Jimmy’s place
and had finished my beef stew but
glared at her ration books
Jimmy hadn’t touched his
and she was going to open her mouth
and the comparison was 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