Repulsive Pheasants Under Glass

Another doctor’s cubicle. It’s cold in here.
I’m in a gown, wrapped in a shawl, blankets piled
over that, still a pheasant under glass.
I’ve been through this six times before.
The gangly bird without its wings
no restaurant wants,
too many missing body parts,
no flesh upon what bones are there.
Parsley and potatoes piped around my frame
won’t make the dish more palpable.

He pitches blankets on the floor, removes my cape,
lifts my gown and looks inside,
prods and pokes a little here, a little there,
tries not to wince or make a face.
My skin is thin white paper cups,
their wrinkled edges made for pills.
He knows I hate each one of them, refusing drugs
like lima beans and brussels sprouts
on some poor toddler’s plastic plate.
I love him when he’s listening.
Respect can climb the highest hill.

He asks me if my pain’s a 4, a 6, or 8.
All I say is: “Math and numbers
fall behind survival mode. Call it 7, let it rest.
We have pipes to tighten up and rearrange;
fractures need a caulking gun.”
“How you crack each joke
like perfect morning eggs
is way beyond my feeble brain.”

He’s willing and he’s talented, so I relax
as if his lungs took a single breath for me.
I sign the forms to schedule knives,
flip a switch to get more light,
ask how tall his grandkids are.
With eyes that beam with buried pride,
he points below his shapely hip;
it moves with grace I’ve never known.
I used to draw a wish like that
in pages of a coloring book.


Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee and the author of three full-length collections of poetry. Her work has won numerous literary awards. Janet’s most recent work is scheduled for publication in forthcoming issues of Offcourse, Mistfit Magazine, Antiphon, Boston Poetry Magazine, and PoetryBay.

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