On canes, in chrome chairs, or led by
hand they take their seats on this side
of Styx. One wears Cher-like shades
over a butterfly rash, another has fit
her limbs’ grimace into the pink
of a madras dress. Someone breathes
heavily in the corner. Your name
stands on a manila file by the door.
I take the empty seat beside you.
Named. So that we now approach
this beast as museum goers who
may look, look but do not touch
Egyptian treasure, the Dutch
master’s hairline intaglio. Or
botanists beside a Chernobyl
bloom: as if the hex or cure
were locked inside one glowing
bud, the pink fist of a phoneme.
Wounds are mouths in Kafka
speaking in German riddles across
a childhood bedroom where curtains
luff and sink in summer air. An ache
opens the voice of the body, calls
across ten states’ length of room.
My pillow hot with your fever,
my hands mumbling to your
hands’ bouquet of virus blisters.
"Diagnosis" first appeared in Harvard Review, Vol. 37.