Discipline Park

By Toby Altman

St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tacoma WA, 1969-74.

A headache makes your mouth plunge, then it pulls away. The smell of diesel or the smell of rain. Now you are a thick suburb. Under the pressure of a credit card. Your body is a box of mirrors, a mercury mine. You have blossomed and spread, white mystery of spring. All your blood and treasure is spent. O rose, you are sick. The morning rain does not nourish you. Your mouth is caught in a rigid O. Where only deficit is at home. You stand beneath a white hospital, almost drunk. You cannot say why your sense is drenched: exhaustion or debt. What’s the difference again? A braid of eyes. Curtains the color of a dove’s wing. Ceramic lips framed against seismic shatter. “Soft zone.” Meanwhile your uncle is dying in San Francisco and you do not know it. You are standing in front of another hospital whose patients are strangers. You unwind a rope of carbon so that you can post pictures of it on the internet. How much damage does your life do and how can you refuse? O rose, you are sick. Only injury sustains you. 

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