Ann E. Wallace


The goggles are terrible.
Oh lord, the goggles look
like they were concocted
in the basement of a mad scuba diving neurologist.

A clever idea, but cruelly conceived.
One lens blacked out with a camera
peering through the dark
at my unsuspecting eye.

The other lens clear
but with a blackout shade.
Once dropped
I am plunged into blindness.

The doctor struggles
to position the rubber strap around my head.
I want to tell her that scuba shops sell covered straps
to make this easier.

I am silent as she leans me back,
my head dangling off the table
resting in her warm hands.
Eyes wide open, she instructs as I begin to fade.

She can see
on her computer screen
my blind eye closing
behind its darkened lens.

Back up, the room sways.
What does vertigo look like
inscribed within my eye?
Can she see that?

Can she see the terror
when, back down again,
she tucks my hair behind my left ear
and inserts the nozzle?

The cool air surges
filling my head,
the pressure
finding no outlet.

My back arches.
My hands clench.
I realize, with surprise,
that no one is holding me down.

Yet I do not pull away.
Perfectly tensed,
I think of moving my hands
but cannot remember how.

I cannot even remember
how to breathe.
She asks me to
say a girl's name that begins with A.

I do not think I can speak.
That was easy.
Does she know that is my daughter's name?

The air is loud,
forcing itself into my ear.
The doctor is relentless;
She wants a boy's name that begins with B.

And C? For a girl.
I mean Christine.

We go on,
naming names,
as she holds the nozzle in place
watching terror flood my eye.

The table drifts under me.
Unsteady now.
Up, down, sliding,
Sinking away.

These are family names,
I am surprised how easily they come.

The air continues.
Eyes open.
The camera watches as I float,
I want to grab the table.

To hold on
But I can't.
At sea
I want to close my eyes.

But the camera
allows no rest.
And the air.
And the names.

What about Molly, my first daughter?

From A to M,
with the force of the air
inside my head,
I have drifted so far

I am naming names
I do not know,
falling into blackness
as the camera records.

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