August 14, 2009

Hilary Melton

UNDER THE KNIFE

There must be ways of making sure children
don’t remember. The intensity of fear, the proper
amount of pain, a certain kind of death threat.

My aunt smiles sweetly, tells me she has absolutely
no memory before she turned 16. My friend Cal
has flashes of someone coming into her bedroom—

it is dark, she is afraid, but she keeps her knees
shut. As a child I was often present in my sleeping
dreams—in the middle of flying, or walking

naked into school, I was there, outside the self
I was being. I could make my dream-self fly higher
or faster or even force my eyes to open.

The day I go in for surgery to remove the bone cyst
they say is causing my jaw to lock, I panic.
Counting backwards from one hundred I think,

what if they don’t give me enough halothane, what if
I can feel them slice, but cannot move or speak?
There are families who don’t suppress memory.

Parents confess, siblings confirm. These families have
police reports, doctors’ notes, witnessing neighbors.
Then there are those families who function best

by the story they build to tell to others, to one another,
to themselves. Pity us Cassandra types, who see back
instead of forward, into the viscera of the horse.

If a dentist takes a needle full of Novocain, injects it
into my gum, then pushes here and there on my numb
face, asks, Can you feel this? I say, Yes.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008

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