In 1994, a car accident,
a trip to the chiropractor.
I waited in his office. On the light box
was a chest x-ray.
The spine between the breasts
angled sharply left.
As if to balance that curve,
above the iliac crest,
the vertebrae swung right,
shifting the hip up, a permanent
swivel, the spine
an imperfect S.
I could not connect
the dots. The chiropractor:
Have you ever seen an x-ray of your spine?
It dawned slowly:
The x-ray was mine.
An explanation for the way my right heel knocks
against left. The permanent shrug
in my shoulder
the spot in my back that I roll
against wall corners, the edge of doors
looking for relief.
Twelve years later, I am leaving my husband,
and I am in pain. My hip is on fire,
my shoulder frozen.
The doctor orders a chest x-ray.
Later, the post card tells me
there is a 22-degree curvature
both thoracic and lumbar
and that my right hip
is five millimeters higher than left.
The post card is insufficient.
I take off work, wait for my doctor.
She has not reviewed my chart,
does not have the x-rays.
She thinks there is a floating bone,
or maybe it's a fungus, a “granuloma,” she says,
reading the report for the first time.
I can go to radiology if I want.
As I leave her office, I think of my husband—
his dentist gave him films of his teeth,
the jaunty roots all in a row,
little white tent stakes.
No one in radiology can talk about x-rays;
they only take them.
But I can check them out, as if this were a library,
and only if I take them back to my doctor.
I should obey the rules,
but instead, I walk past a woman with a cane,
let the E/R doors fly open for me.
Striding beyond hospital grounds, clutching my own x-rays,
I think of my husband, the films of his teeth.
I can hear him sweetly saying, My gal. He's with me
as I cross the street, fling open the doors
of the camera store, place the huge white envelope
marked X-Ray Films Do Not Bend on the counter
and say, Make me a copy of these, please.
This is why I stole my own x-rays:
To show my man who I am,
past the clothes and the skin,
to the defects he will have to love
if I am to stay.