“How to Remove a Hazmat Suit” by Jay Sizemore

Jay Sizemore


Call your mother.
Reminisce about failed attempts to quit smoking,
how she hid cigarettes in the refrigerator.
Ask if she remembers the dog’s name,
the one that brought home the dead coyote,
how you had to watch it for signs of rabies,
gnats buzzing like a gray fog above the grass.

Turn your hands inside out.
Do not touch your hands,
they are contaminated,
they are kites catching fire.

Ask the doctor for a second opinion,
does this PPE make my ass look big?
H.P. Lovecraft has vomited in the hall.
H.P. Lovecraft has smeared his ruptured boils
on the wall into an abstract painting
of flesh mimicking a cannibal
without teeth.

Remove your face.
Do not touch your face,
your hands are contaminated,
your hands and face
are magnets of the same polarity.

Everything you’ve touched must burn.

Establish a telepathic link with your younger self.
Ask if the medical field really needs another you.
Remind yourself how much you want
to refuse the epidural,
to feel your child tearing free
like a mouth opening inside a mouth
and filling with ecstatic screams.

Imagine a water bowl untouched,
finding your dog shaking a limp doll,
slinging bright red drops
like constellations in the lawn.
Remember thinking, it’s so beautiful,
all this death.

Emerge from the cocoon of your body.
Do not touch yourself,
you are contaminated.
Sing the song of the cicada
while washing your hands.

Poets Respond
October 19, 2014

[download audio]


Jay Sizemore: “I wrote this after reading about the second person in Texas contracting Ebola. The nurse supposedly had been wearing a full hazmat suit, but due to the complicated method required in removing it, had exposed herself unknowingly to the disease. I thought the directions supplied by the CDC were poetic in their repetition, and it inspired my mind to wander.”

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