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The secret of language is the secret of disease.
The house of healing is crystalline, clean
as the diagram of a carbon molecule drawn
With a laser beam on one facet of a diamond.
All the ugliness in me is flushed out
For a little while. Elizabeth has gone up the stairs
under the white canopy and entered
The antiseptic door I am not allowed to open.
Out here, the unclean pandemic; within,
Precise poison distilled to search and destroy
like secret government agents in unmarked black vans.
Limbo, purgatory, bardo: surely this parking lot
is one of these. I am stuck in ignorance again.
I never learned the mathematics of chemistry, what
algorithm plugs into what element. Greywater rain
Splatting suddenly on the windshield is explicable
by formulae I was never interested in learning
Until now. Elizabeth sends a selfie: how is it able
to get here from inside the sealed building?
She’s in a blue recliner; I’m in the driver’s seat
with nowhere to go, utterly lost. It’s as if
We’re both on a huge airliner but not
together, neither with a grip on the physics of lift.
Out here I can think about anything. It is easy to think.
Toyota, Toyota, Kia, Mercedes, black van, Toyota
My neighbors whisper. We’re going on. This is not
the parking lot of the dead. A gray smokestack
Towers out of the hospital roof. It’s no crematorium,
but what is it for, then? Elizabeth has a port
In her chest through which they release an infusion,
Rilkean word, fake transcendence—it’s given.
The chemistry of cancer goes to the very root of the body’s
biology, the basis of physical Being. It is that profound,
Precisely, profound meaning toward the foundation,
or, as the dictionary says, deepest or innermost part,
Chasm, abyss, depths of the sea, innermost secrets
or mysteries. I sit in a hospital parking lot
Reading the Oxford English Dictionary on my phone.
I have no idea how that is even possible.
Having no idea is not a bad idea. Having no reason
to know is no impediment to a holy ignorance.
Hours pass. The clouds thin and shatter, ancient bone.
Time is so delicate a medium it does not disturb
A particle of that detritus—it sends out its thugs
to clean things up. In the photo, Elizabeth gives me
A brave smile. Shifting light from the afternoon sun
revealed through the clouds’ lesion does not dim it
But tricks my eyes into a kind of blindness that tells me
Yes, those cataracts are coming right along,
My ophthalmologist’s favorite joke. The little light
he trains on my retinas carves out darkness
Like a scalpel. There will be months of this. God
is a trail of blood time leaves in the snow
After marching over us. One day there will be
leaves in the snow in this parking lot,
And I will be here then too, waiting for Elizabeth
to text me Almost finished. Her words
Fly out of the house of healing invisibly, I don’t
know how. The chemistry of reading them floods
Through my neurons, surely, but I don’t understand it,
this deep in my seventieth year, almost finished.
Copyright 2022 T.R. Hummer
T.R. Hummer’s many books include Available Surfaces: Essays on Poesis (University of Michigan Press, 2012).