In real life we are outnumbered
by microbes and rarely think of them.
Next to me, Jack is learning a dead language
and holding an cup of lemon rinds.

At the beginning of the assignment,
he is instructed to write the phrase
I am a human. Yesterday morning
part of my cervix was cut out with a wire

and I spent the rest of the day taking pain pills,
falling asleep watching crime dramas
only to wake up and start them over again.

I don’t know why it is that I want to cry
when my mother’s friend from college
tries to speak of the unspeakable past

or when I hear someone younger
walking behind me talk disparagingly
about being forced to watch Chinatown.

Today it seems almost too sad to bear
that we can enforce anything
and teach practically nothing.

The room was filled with nurses
and they made it so I felt and saw
so little. I don’t know
if it’s good to tell stories
that are only about crisis aversion.

In Frankenstein it is only the blind man
who greets the monster with kindness.
And people die so we know
of human flaw and pride. There is not

an easy answer. We can do much more
now that we have instruments
to stop the bleeding. The doctor smiles
to tell me I’m brave and look like my mother.


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