For Barb

In the waiting room they are afraid
of talk shows and the Home and Garden channel.
They’re trying not to think about themselves—
after all they’re just the family—
this is someone else’s treatment.
They try to get along for once and try
to keep their need from leaking out.
It doesn’t work.
The four year old they had to bring along
is cranky, the furniture uncomfortable,
the directions to the cafeteria confusing.

The chairs in the infusion room recline.
They’re vinyl-covered which is easy clean,
just wipe it down with disinfectant after
every patient, every wasted body,
every woman who has had her breasts
removed. Breasts are meant to nurture
not to be the instruments of death.
Hair loss adds insult to injury.

Two chairs down an older woman says
she’s cold, she wants a blanket and the nurse
in purple scrubs responds and brings her one.
Everyone is nice, concerned, upbeat.
Covered now she curls her hands around

the blanket’s edge and blinks uncertainly
waiting for the drip to finish, waiting
for the bag so smooth and full, suspended
on its stainless steel pole to empty
its elixir down along the line.

Today you’re tethered to your own IV
and pole, a difficult umbilicus.
The contents look so clear, so pure, like water
or like air.  The plastic bag is perfect.

Steel mirrors the entire room.
All this will hit you later in the week
when you are lying on the couch at home
too sick to rake your leaves or read or eat,
but you and I know that’s all days away.

Candy stripers bring us chocolate kisses—
we laugh and talk about our horses now.


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