Ellen Samuels

ON THE HOSPITAL

When I say I’m at the hospital, everyone sits up and pays attention. The hospital is
serious. The hospital means business. Is there anything we can do? people say to the
hospital.

But the hospital is just a place I go sometimes when I am well enough to leave my house.

All these weeks and months I spend at home, drifting the plumb of bed’s expanse.
The hospital is not a building. The hospital is here, this pale inland sea.

My mouth is the hospital, opening for the words I can’t think how to say.  

My hands are the hospital, reaching for the spoon handle before it drops.

The sound of the spoon hitting the floor is the hospital.

The hospital is the shirt I unpeel from my heat-slick back, and the clean shirt I take from
the stack and drag over my head is the hospital.

The basket of unfolded laundry in the living room all week is the hospital.

In the center of my heartbone I feel the hospital beating, through days and nights that
bleed into days like a pink-coated pill touched with wet fingers leaks its shell until you
decide whether to take it or throw it away.

My dog’s grunts and startles beside me, her trembling repetitive dreams, are the hospital.

The sour at the back of my throat when my breath stops in the folds of night tastes of the
hospital.

The pillow I twist to an easier spot, the sheet that escapes from the mattress corner, the
quilt knotted around my belly, these are the hospital.

This animal burrow, this rumpled cot, fevered skin and dog’s fur and cotton sheets all
petaled together, this is the hospital. And it is home. This is home and the hospital.


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