-after Justinus Kerner
The cloudy indigo sky of the morning
Was a Rorschach blot demanding
Interpretation before I could
Start my hospital rounds
If you see a camel
Wandering the shores of Lake Erie
It means you’re a psychopath
Just turn around and go back home
If you perceive a zebra mounting your mother
From behind take a bow, doff your cap
It means your mind is half striped
As for those other clouds
Avert your eyes from the billowing
Dress that shows too much when
You stare too long at the liquid sun
Call yourself from a burner phone
Ask to meet for lunch
And then ghost him
Like the pathetic fool deserves
I’m just a surgeon, not a priest
The only religion I know is alone in the ICU
Watching a post op slowly swirl
Around the edges of the drain
When the family comes in the morning
The intensivist and hospice nurse
Advise that they pull the plug
Which is the worst metaphor;
Uncle Hank isn’t just a toaster
You can disconnect
When he catches on fire.
These particular clouds are dark and inky
But nothing like storm clouds.
Dr. Kerner would draw faces on them
And turn them into clowns
Laughing down at me as I slotted my modest little car
In its tidy little space in the pared down doctor’s lot
Of the perfectly redundant suburban hospital
Where I show up every day to work.
One day Kerner conjured a sawmill
From a particular lobular inkblot
Which is odd given the relative sharpness
Of the toothed circular blade
And those perfect cornered planks.
But when you see death
Nothing ever appears
My clouds are much softer
Like velvet pillows for a coffin.
But first, a snack.
Bring me those pickled hearts
Floating in the mason jar
With the bulging lid.