Illinois versus Taiwan
[A poem by Annette Rearden ]
It took me six weeks to get the nerve to look you in the eye.
I purposely avoided reading the notes, x-rays, scans, disheartened
to see my full name, birth-date, and age typed below yours.
A union I had no desire to be a part of.
A punch to the gut.
So I chose to avoid you—hidden papers, eyes skip below the header, discs buried in piles.
Imagine instead skiing the loop with my son—long stretch uphill to the right, small bursts, fast downhill, tight curve right.
Then Thursday the doctor invited me to view your picture.
To even get more intimate with you. Than we already are.
He walked me down the white quiet hall and said, “come on, I’ll show you the films.”
At first, I paused. Said, “No thanks. I don’t have any interest in seeing the image.”
He stopped walking, giving me time to reconsider. As if he knew.
Then an imaginary hand pushed me from behind.
Into the tiny, sterile room I went.
Large monitor in front of me. Tech by our side. CT tube in background.
He expressed awe at the vasculature, explained how the dye lights up the vessels
as it flows through. His eyes glowed with appreciation.
Beautiful curves, emerged with each scroll, from large, robust vessels to tiny branches deep within, as if hand drawn by an expert who understood the body’s power and intricacy.
Teaching with his finger, highlighting the right ventricle, the left, the brilliant aorta serving as an arch of great importance and demand.
“Psychedelic liver,” he said with endearment, a term I have never heard, marbled by the recently injected dye, filtering, processing, breaking down the poison intended to destroy
Black edges, gray splat.
Dead center of chest.
1/3 rd to the right mediastinal border 1/3 rd to the left mediastinal border.
Beneath sternum. In front of heart, lungs.
In plain site.
Shortness of breath, fatigue, night sweats, cough.
We met. Squared off.
I breathed. The cough now gone.
“Looks like Illinois” I said.
“Or Taiwan” he replied.
“Shit that thing is big.”
“But," he paused, "a little smaller I think."
Ice has been broken.
Later that night In the shower I told you this:
You are not my friend. You do not belong here. This is not your house.
No longer will I avoid.
Your lessons are deep, life changing, and raw.
And that is enough to last a lifetime.
The power is now mine.