Negotiating with the Nurse

by Janet I. Buck


Pinned to the mattress of a hospital bed,
one arm harnessed by a sling, my writing hand glued with Velcro to my chest,
the other red with needles taped across my wrist.

A nurse reminds me not to move,
hammering one fact in place: you cannot write
unless you dictate to the walls. They’re sterile and they’re hard to reach.

I told this woman what I thought as she kindly lifted a fork to my mouth:
“You guys cook with Vaseline instead of precious olive oil.
Unhook this stupid morphine drip; I’m going home; I miss our dog.”

I can’t break the rules here. I’m busy sluts for a noble pen; it owns me right side up
and upside down. I need to be where I can fiddle with the keys, catch a mouse, grab a
tiny truth or two by skinny tails. Click save, then I might sleep an hour.

Since she won’t leave until I eat, I lecture her about the things I need to hear.
Don’t just pray at Sunday church; ask those favors for your friends; some of them
are dying off like swatted spiders on a web. We’re all just melting popsicles.

The nurse’s mouth is gaping now. I guess I hit a nerve or two.
I offer her remainders of my awful lunch as speedy moot apologies, but she’s not stupid,
she’s not drugged, and closes it like shutting doors we understand.

You’re only what you do right now; it’s never triumphs of the past that save someone
from suicide. She’s nervous now and takes my plate, so I can watch my laptop napping
on a bench across the room. It sits there like a Christmas gift.

I’m the whining two year old who will not quit until she gets to open it.
After only seven hours, she knows me better than I’d like: “If you get up,
we’ll nail your only foot to the floor.” The joke’s too old to make me laugh.

“You’ve had a complex surgery and need some rest; why are you so lucid now
despite the drugs. Your doctor says, your eyes are always open wide; no matter how hard
a baseball bat smacks your pretty little head, you’re pacing every tile you find.”

I hate it when I’m cellophane, all my secrets on display like Barbie Dolls they only sell
in Goodwill stores, because some limbs are missing now. She puts warm blankets
over me, to quiet sordid memories and salve the things she cannot change.

Why do seagulls fly with grace, then end up crying in the air. Why are tears just pocket change
from dollar bills of loving with a heavy heart. Why am I always begging for ice. Why am
I allergic to beds. Why does everything I write wake the neighbors with its noise.

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