When You’ve Been Sick For A Time


The surgeon threaded the catheter
through my chest wall and superior vena cava, let it dangle
just above my heart.

The young assistant scrubbed
until I felt like pudding.
Strange not to feel

pain, only the meaty burrowing.
Sometimes the catheter rubs against the wall
and my heart hiccups.

When you’ve been sick for a time
you give up all your secrets, you give up
the lies.

I liked building puzzles
as a child, the constancy
of the card table set up in the den.

I almost stayed at the Denio bar,
paid rent for a trashy trailer out back
because cowboys still hitched

their horses to the rail.
It doesn’t take long to turn a creek
into a crik. I think about going back.

I take my catheter to the grocery store
and to the county dump
where a man named Dirty Dale guides me

through TV dinners and bags of dirty diapers
to listen to Maria Callas sing
on a transistor radio Ascolta, ascolta.

Listen, listen.
The little things gather
that I have left scattered about.


*** (credits: Ascolta, ascolta./Le poche robe aduna/che lasciai sparse., from “Donde lieta usci,” Puccini’s La Boheme)