They teach me how to take, and then

they send me to you. I take your history,

your blood, your time. A couple of secrets:

this morning we drew out molecular

pathways on whiteboards in a different

building; we laughed at ourselves because

we can never pronounce anything right.

Also, the five times I stood by your bedside

and pulled back your hospital gown and

listened and said I could hear your heart

murmur, I was lying all but one of them.


I have gotten through life unscarred by

using words as a platelet plug, throwing

them at the wounds, at what I’ve done

wrong, hoping that the bleeding stops.

That wouldn’t work here. I speak only in

conditionals: I used to write poems in

lower case and italics so they would look

quieter. For a moment a blue sheet shifts

and I see your neck, bare and bloodless.


Another secret: really, I am here only to

watch. To watch and to take. It was meant

to be real, but somehow I have already

absorbed all the meaning of language I can’t

even speak yet. There are other relevant

questions, other answers. The last thing

you ate before it hurt too much. You wore

a blue dress to your granddaughter’s

wedding. Sometimes we both forget which

surface of life is real. I watch and I take.

And out of all the things I have taken there

was one that I was given: they said

these are the masks we wear.

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