“The Nurse Lifts the Clipboard & Replaces All Your Vital Signs” by Noah Baldino

Noah Baldino


with scratch-n-sniff stickers. You undress in front of her
because your body looks like hers. She stuffs her purse

& your mouth full of blue paper gowns. It feels like
the Eucharist melting on your tongue or sleeping

so long your legs forget how they’re supposed to work.
Every metal object in this room hurts your eyes & has a name

everybody knows except for you. The nurse holds something
to your heart you call severed elephant trunk, wilted flower.

She hands your boxers to the doctor & asks if you’ll be going
under the knife today. She loves how those words feel

against her teeth. It’s her favorite phrase. Her lips are strawberry
red like they’ve gone under the knife. You want to say this

but you say nothing. The doctor raises an anatomically correct
penis to his lips & does a waltz. You demand his credentials.

He undoes his belt & begins to cry. At that very moment,
you realize you haven’t shaved your legs in years. The doctor

blows his nose into your boxers while the nurse reenacts
the video your fifth grade class watched on how boys & girls

love each other the right way with the right parts. You worry
the doctor will find out you have the wrong parts. If he ever

stops crying he will give you the medicine. You want to be
the medicine. You want to be sleeping so long your legs forget

how they’re supposed to be hairless. The nurse licks a sticker until
her mouth purples like a wound. The doctor scratches &

scratches till his fingers bleed & the room smells great &
the chart reads female & the doctor wants to know why

you’ve changed your name & whose underwear he’s holding.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016
2016 Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

[download audio]


Noah Baldino: “Going to the doctor can be scary for everyone, but it’s a different type of scary for trans or non-binary people. I’ve put off trying to find an inclusive doctor for a long time because of these various fears. In a backwards attempt to calm myself, I decided to think up a worst-nightmare situation and instead ended up with something more surreal. The images that started arriving felt unfamiliar and terrifying, but somehow miraculous. Sometimes a poem can happen right where the foot goes through the floorboard. Writing this poem didn’t solve or ease my fear, but I’m not sure that’s what poetry is for, anyway.”

Rattle Logo