On Finding a Copy of Pigeon in the Hospital Bookstore

I prowled up and down the rows of the hospital bookstore with a fevered intensity;

“fevered” because it was a hospital, “intensity” because I was perplexed by

the mysteriously ruptured tendon in the middle finger of my right hand

in sympathy with which the whole hand had cramped

so that I could scarcely hold a pen or open a jar.

Even a five-month-old octopus in the Munich zoo can open a jar!


The octopus’s name is Frieda, which reminded me

of D.H. Lawrence, and thinking of him

brought me to the hospital bookstore. It was minimally stocked

with anything resembling literature, offering those in pain,

afraid, or just dully waiting for test results

a choice of pink-jacketed chick-lit, cookbooks, investment guides

or glossy thrillers spilling blood

as red as that pooling down the hall in the O.R,

as though emulating some homeopathic principle

of curing a disease by a parody of that which caused it.


And perched as eccentrically as the sparrow who sings from the rafters

at Loblaws, and looking just as lost,

was the only volume of poetry in the store.

Reading it I recognized at once what I disliked

about the bulky bestsellers nudging it from the shelf

like bullies in the halls of high school, their meaty faces

full of self-regard, their minds absent of thought.

I hate the omni-present present tense, that fake cinematic contrivance

meant to create a sense of “being in the moment” with the hero

as though life were a constant rush of adrenaline

with no possible mood but surprise.


Whereas poetry offers the results of its meditation

tentatively; it is not embarrassed to show that thinking

– some of it slow, arduous, confused — has taken place.

And then poetry doesn’t rush ahead shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!”

Instead, it takes your hand, your poor mangled hand, like the good surgeon it is

and massages it joint by joint, feeling for the sore places.

And because it doesn’t speak without reflection

you trust it, and let it cut you open.

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