“Post-Op” by Taylor Collier

Taylor Collier

POST-OP

The night after my ankle surgery
I was afraid of taking too many
pain pills and didn’t stay ahead
of the pain—like it’s a race where,
if you get lapped, you can never
catch up again. I couldn’t think
of anything but the deep bony ache
of the eight screws in my ankle,
mixed with the fiery sear of incision,
and so went back to the hospital,
to the ER at two in the morning
where I waited and cried openly
in an in-between room and heard
a woman’s voice crackle and pop
like a plastic bottle under big rig
wheels as she tried to explain to
her husband that their son had
just died. I felt like a fool, so
blistered to my hurt I lost sight
of everyone else. I would be alright.
Pain just a temporary matter. And
sure enough, two hours later, a nurse
practitioner patted my chest and said,
Get ready to be stoned, honey—
this stuff’s seven times stronger
than morphine. In seconds I’m fine.
Leaning back, I try hard not to stare
directly at the light overhead, and feel
like the idiot I know I am, knowing
my pain couldn’t’ve mattered enough
to be here, and I’ve already forgotten
about the woman from earlier who
lost it on the phone when I say thank
you, thank you, thank you to
everyone in the empty room.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016

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Taylor Collier: “I’d like to say that I make up poems because the creative impulse is the biggest middle finger I can throw at death, but in reality, I make them up because I can’t help it, because my favorite poems make my forearms go all prickly, because precision can be beautiful, because I can’t find a better way to explain myself.” (website)