Vox Populi

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Deborah Bogen: Four Truths About Anesthesia


Maybe this is how it is: as you fall asleep a small hole opens

in the back of your head just above the neck where children

love to be tickled. This porthole opens and sleep tests the air.

Slow molecules count themselves into the long plastic tube,

till there’s smoke moving in the light of a projector and the

gas develops a flavor like the taste of a lover’s tongue. Then

the calm heat rises, taking you with it. Your soul’s misplaced,

your thoughts laid out like the unclaimed dead.


Or maybe this, a curtain falls somewhere in the cavity, the

diaphragm relaxes, winds die down, and you’re suddenly

soft, like the baby in her bath, like raw sausage, like clothes

from the dryer, the words you spoke only an hour ago broken

down to the inconsequential speech of women in Russian

novels, Sophia and Esther in the summerhouse, the young

blades gone to battle and your own pink sponges soaking up

blood. You’re so quiet, ribs chromatic as xylophones but at

the end you panic, gasp like a drowning man, fish-mouthed,

unlovely, and suck in sleep.


Or this. The nervous system gets it first, those long wires

that cross the plain of your back are strung with lead weights

at irregular intervals, sagging, unable to blow in memory’s

breezes or transmit the simplest text, how now brown cowand

you drop the disguise of your personality, lie slack-faced,

unbothered by intelligence as valves are opened and closed,

your limbs arranged on clean white tablecloths, septicemia

sounding in the distance, echoing until the submarine of your

body drops its scope and you sink.


Or maybe not, maybe it’s a carnival, all bright hallucinations,

a tilt-a-whirl ride and the small prick barely noticeable among

the helium balloons, the periphery alight with fireworks that

detonate like giant dandelions and as your stunned brain

scans the midway, neurons careen down a luminous path

where green-masked barkers offer rigged chances to count

backwards, to sing the national anthem, to say what may

have been left unsaid. And the words ricochet in your skull,

sassafras, sassafras, sassafras.


Copyright 2002 Deborah Bogen. From Living by the Children’s Cemetery. Chosen by Edward Hirsch for the 2002 Byline Press Poetry Prize.

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2018 by in Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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