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Hoagland, Tony


Try being sick for a year,

then having that year turn into two,

until the memory of your health is like an island

going out of sight behind you

and you sail on in twilight.

with the sound of waves.

It's not a dream. You pass

through waiting rooms and clinics

until the very sky seems pharmaceutical,

and the faces of the doctors are your stars

whose smile or frown

means to hurry and get well

or die.

And because illness feels like punishment,

an enormous effort to be good

comes out of you—

like the good behavior of a child

desperate to appease

the invisible parents of this world.

And when that fails,

there is an orb of anger

rising like the sun above

the mind afraid of death,

and then a lake of grief, staining everything below,

and then a holding action of neurotic vigilance

and then a recitation of the history

of second chances.

And the illusions keep on coming.

and fading out, and coming on again

while your skin turns yellow from the medicine.

your ankles swell like dough above your shoes,

and you stop wanting to make love

because there is no love in you,

only a desire to be done.

But you're not done.

Your bags are packed

and you are travelling.

© 2000 Association of American Medical Colleges