The first time I went under I was four,
a simple tonsillectomy. She lied
and promised I'd smell oranges. She wore
a mask, had smiling eyes. I'm told I cried.
I watched while she took something bad and held
it on my face. And that was all. I woke
up in a room with mom and dad. "It smelled,"
I said. But now my throat hurt when I spoke.
I still feel cheated, of that promised smell
of orange. And even now I wonder why
I should remember that detail and dwell
upon it. Wasn't it a harmless lie?
I'm quite sure they meant only to be kind
to me, yet I can guess just why I mind.
II: Partial Oophrectomy
And when the stakes were higher at the next
occasion I lay waiting, stashed, on drip,
for hours in a basement hall way, text
book case of cysts. I never thought to rip
the tube out from my arm and run, a tip
I might have taken had I known. I lay
apart from all the lively fellowship
that flowed in eddies down the hall. The day
began, a gurney-ride, a passageway
and I'd been shaved and warned the night before.
The left and right were both involved, no way
to tell just what would be. They'd cut, explore.
They told me that the cysts were all benign;
they never promised, gutted, I'd be fine.
III. Back Surgery
It came to this; I had no choice unless
a sure paralysis was fine with me.
The risk reward was easy to assess,
mere ten percent against a certainty.
And so, I found it easy to say yes
and sign the forms. My strategy
just now is to omit, no, to compress
the pain and loss that led to surgery.
In case you care, I walk, I feel, maintain
control of functions I won't name. That night
I had the surgery, they showed me how
to kneel, my knees apart. On drip, both pain
and modesty were gone. I got it right,
and lay like jam on evening sky somehow.
IV. Perimenopausal Dilation and Curettage
I'm sure this should have been a piece of cake;
for at this point I'd nothing much to lose,
or so they said. But that depends on who's
the judge, and who decides just what's at stake.
I'd heard it said there's nothing much about
a d and c to cause alarm. And as
the doctor said, it's wait and see. He has
an eager resident to scrape, no doubt.
I'd nothing more to do. I just lay back
to wait until the anesthesia hit.
And then I got a swell idea: I'd fight
to stay awake. Around the cul-de-sac
and round I'd go, not spinning out, one... bit.
And I was gone. So was the doctor right?
One likes to say the prep's the hardest part
of this procedure. One could say it's not
the prep that's bad at all. The prep's an art,
a masterful distraction that's designed
to keep one focused on detail, a smart
magician's waving hand, a trick refined
so one is fooled; it's like the waving cape
the matador will shake and swirl. One's blind,
forgets why one has come. One can escape.
And like the bull, one can be sweet-talked by
a murmured, "toro, toro." and miss the scrape
of spade that gravely threatens, "You will die."
And that's the hardest part: not how, nor why,
We won't hear scrape, or thud, or rope's long sigh.
(c) 2004 Miriam N. Kotzin
First published in the Drexel Online Journal August 2004