The hospital gown is medicine’s equalizer.
No matter the wearer…
overweight, cellulitic diabetics
tachypneic pregnant women puffing forth new life
wide-eyed children breathing through an anesthesia mask…
all rendered into one
shapeless, ill-fitting smock.
preserved by the garment of flimsy, patterned fabric,
sometimes by two in those with posteriors left bare by one stingy cloth.
shuffling in tread-treated socks
clinging to an IV pole for stability with one hand
gathering up the ample folds yawning apart at the seams in the other,
while scooting onto a stretcher en route to surgery.
Those too weak remain in bed
listlessly lying amid a tussle of sheets, blankets, of which the hospital gown becomes one of many layers.
The seemingly healthy defy this aura of illness,
but even the most robust bodybuilder’s biceps seem a little more attenuated
capped by cheap cotton sleeves
hulking quadriceps unused to public exposure
enjoy a kilt-like debut courtesy of the shortened gown.
Occasional glimpses of the individual peek through…
cartoon-emblazoned pajama fleece
comfortably bulky knit sweaters
a well-worn terry-cloth robe…
can break the uniformity of the hospital one-piece.
The gown is requisite hospital livery.
voluntarily surrendered by the elective catheter patient who disrobes
trauma alert fresh off the slopes, ski pants cut off, wheeled to the OR to re-place displaced bones
must be exposed. Easy access
pulmonary percussion, abdominal auscultation, pulse palpation—
areas normally kept privy by favorite jeans, tattered t-shirts, and intimate apparel
now open for scrutiny.
clinging to individuality
behind monotonous bolts of faded cotton.
will see you now.