Listening RoomThe Poet Speaks




In the ward
behind a curtain
with a sleeping cap
akimbo on her wig,
Alabama whispers
like a locomotive,
Let me go.

In some brown place
above her bed,
my stern professor stands
and frowns
at my attempts
to stoke the boiler
in her chest.

Wrinkled and abused,
this Alabama lies
in some deep structure
of my mind
where still I kneel
beside her freckled arms
pumping morphine, merc
and oxygen.

The distant locomotive chugs.
I slap her, Dammit ,

Poet’s Commentary:

“This is a poem about the urge to heal and, I guess, about the unforgiveness of the world.”

*Reproduced with the permission of Jack Coulehan and The Johns Hopkins University Press: Literature and Medicine 11(1): 87, 1992; and with special permission of Nightshade Press: First Photographs of Heaven, 1994.

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