Early morning twilight before dawn.
Gray clouds gathered stacked to ambush a rising tepid sun.
This is the time when the doctor makes his rounds,
Silently stealing from room to room like a thief.
He takes what he needs,
(The nurses never know)
The history of present illness,
Of past transgression,
Skeletons in closets,
Of all conceivable redemption.
He parts curtains, appears like an apparition
Before half-awake humans in unfamiliar beds.
Whispers queries into their dreams
(knowing the secrets that hide in dreams)
Whispers, always in muffled whispers.
He casts his questions from a chair.
He rises. Moves closer. His voice the hushed intonation of morning prayer.
I’m going to pull back the covers
Let me lift your gown
You will feel some pressure.
You will feel the prick of this needle.
This one will need the knife.
This one has secrets to tell.
This one has blood to spill.
This one still misses his wife.
This one is pedantic.
This one is lost.
This one sees right through me.
He takes the measure
Of half conscious patients:
Heart rate, temperature, blood pressure.
Presses the flesh of
Bodies nominally solid,
Bodies that veer toward evanescence.
(Resistance must always be calibrated)
He takes he takes he takes what he needs;
The stale smell of sloughed skin,
The faint stirrings of putrefaction.
Samples of pungent ochre urine,
Pus swabbed from festering sores.
Shavings of raised scabbed nevi
Gathered all in a dark bag of unmentionables
heads on sticks,
Rings of skeleton keys,
Marrow sucked from hollowed bones,
A stray clump of grayed hair on the pillow plucked.
Vials of fluids, chronic excrescences.
Skin pallid or pasty or yellow
Turgid ankles, blotches on backs
Bodies bruised blued
Red limned eyes, matted lashes fused.
All revealed now by the pale light of dawn.
All revealed in the aching moan of first sun.
The doctor sees all by the spectral light of dying moon.
These are the treasures of morning plunders,
This harvesting of illness and brokenness
And now there are whisperings
heard from the tangled clots of covers.
The doctor must lean over
to hear words that are not words
but an ominous rattle in your chest.
The corrugated exhalation of fear
that hops unbeknownst
Into his dark satchel of stolen treasures
Hours later, orders placed, notes all written,
(and then the daddy daddy let’s play, honey honey would you do)
when he goes through his secret stash------
The bag is unexpectedly light, unburdened.
This is all that’s left;
That dying rattle in your chest
That clings to the the inside craw
Of his healing broken down being.
All the rest is gone.
Fallen out the flaw in the bottom of his bag
All the rest is gone
Except for this wheezing,
This rasping rattle in the center of his being
That’s followed him all the way home.
It starts as a tickle in the back of his throat.
It starts as a tickle
It starts in the back of his throat
That escapes as a cough
Before he can cover his mouth