I bring important news from the clinic.
The kingdom of green-walled waiting rooms
lined with plastic chairs
where patients wait like ticking clocks
and children play with broken toys
taken from a broken box,
and piles of wrinkled magazines
are there to pass the time.
I join the queue and sit
among them, another bird
perched on the singing wires;
I have no use for the daily news,
wasting away the protracted minutes,
waiting for the triumph of diagnosis.
The nurse wears scrubs in playful
colours, little umbrellas
pattern her smock; her stethoscope
draped round her neck like a noose snapped
from the gallows.
She balls my fist to extract
my blood, that crimson plasma.
The redcoats gallop through the syringe,
and fill a vial with secrets
that my body has cached.
I’m a keg waiting
to be tapped.
(I wonder whatever happened to the old
nurses in starched caps, white aprons, soft
soled shoes that squeaked against the floor
beneath the crooked seams of white stockings)
I’m told to strip and swathed in paper
like a lump of meat at the butcher shop.
The doctors come, looking grim;
they mutter and place their heads together
as though their collective thoughts
can summon a cure.
They offer to chip away the tumours
as though digging for gold.
My body is full of those shiny nuggets
and I grow new ones every day
for these miners to chisel out.
They offer drugs that zip through me
and prolong my ordeal;
my body is an engine burning its oil.
I shuffle past the wheelchair-bound
who wait for their death bell to toll,
holding shut the flap of my paper gown;
their bald heads are like nodding eggs,
their bruised arms are tethered to IVs that hang
like fat sacks of inconsistencies, filled
with fluid clear as tears.
I’m now at the mercy of the pitfalls of science.
Soon I shall be one of them.
Illustration Courtesy: Vishnu Prasad © All Rights Reserved