I have a cold and it is not cold outside today
so I am half certain that I am dying.
I mutter snot prayers into Kleenex.
Horoscopes. Yahtzee. Augury.
Something is rotten in the
steak from last night that cost too much and bled too little.
There are only a few terminal illnesses
that I can name.
Tuberculosis. Cookie dough. Living.
I know them from the sympathetic
cardboard display by the Broadbranch Market cash register
that eats quarters and promises cures, backlit by the Slushee machine.
I attend a college that has no science course requirement
so serves me right if I can't name what kills me.
H1N1. Fingerprints in the dining hall Raisin Bran. Lice.
If I went back in time I would be inconspicuously useless,
incapable of anachronism.
I couldn't build a socket or a circuit or recreate
a Science Fair potato clock. But people would love
the way I wash spoons with hot water. I go to the gym
where I think about how good I would be
at churning butter though I spend most of my time
on the elliptical which teaches me how to run
as effectively as a carousel teaches me how to ride a horse.
If I visited the rosy-cheeked stinking ancestors
I could collapse onto a horde,
half of them with undiagnosable cancers and the other half imagining.
Life back then is life now is as charming
as a tetanus shot and as useful as a pedestrian bridge.
I avoid STEM classes to prepare myself for the incurable.
Go ahead and crown my mourning bedside crowd with mob-caps.
The Slushee machine is clogged with butter.
I am walking backwards into the valley.
I lie atop my unyielding mattress and pull
the duvet up under my chin and look down at myself and pretend
I have no body.
Without my net of sinews and slush of muscles
there is no surface of me to rest condemnation upon.
I hope for a Richter 7 that would knock
me off my lofted bed without returning me to myself —
for forgetting the brain by animating the body
offers sweeter relief than shrouds do.
My automatic arms would move of their own accord amidst calamity
as food topples off pantry shelves
and IKEA chairs pitch themselves onto their sides.
I was the kind of kid
who in the bath would tie up my two Bikini Barbies
then when the water cooled I would undo the knots and say I saved you.
This was damp ceramic escape for all three of us.
I've learned to go upright since then
and by that I mean that I am mourning
the end of that easy adrenaline self-severance.
I overheat now under the merciful duvet,
muffling my unsavory parts with blinding cotton.