In the doctor’s shining enamel castle
the physician’s assistant taps your vein,
pushes your heart, listening deeply to the fog
flowing in & out of the darkened harbor
of your chest. She dresses you down
for an EKG, sensing your pale, naked fear.
She attaches you to an asthma tube
yet after all this, there’s still no answer.
It’s midday now after months of illness
and the tight net of winter has lifted its grip
yet still there creeps the familiar guilt:
the halting thought that you’ve abandoned
the grand duties of work for another fruitless trip.
On the long drive home, the busy policeman of your life
watches the faces of crossing guards
searching for signs of judgment.
Instead, you discover a carnival: the Haitian lady
in speckled eyeshadow twirls a long feather boa.
A Navy veteran shepherds lost children
through the sea of traffic. Pass by now, he says.
Pass on by, little ones.
The oceans part, you breathe and contort,
tossing up curses at the cloud of unknowing
and the brutal thump-thump of the man upstairs,
until at last, in spite of yourself, you arrive home safely
and at the end of it all, you find words of comfort
traveling down the telephone line:
An old Quaker friend – her voice clear as light–
offers what truth this day demands:
To find the reason for your illness,
go deeper, she says, go down to the root.