I remember my time in the hospital fondly
because it was a place where my illusions
about just about everything,
including the body I have—or, more accurately, am—
were gently set aside, the way
the nurse’s aide gently set aside my reading glasses,
and the book I was trying to read in spite of
the pain—putting them just over there,
out of the way of what was more important,
which was the undeniable fact
that I needed to be washed. For I hadn’t
washed in several days, married as I was
to the bed, the commode, the drainage tube in my chest,
and the pain. Yes, I was married to the pain,
which had a distinct element of monogamy—
it refused to share my attention with anything or anyone,
not even with other pain. But the bed bath
got my attention: the nurse’s aide gently
lifting my hospital gown—an indignity at first;
a humiliation, really, as I lay there helpless
and pale and naked, the warm, soapy, wet
washcloth traversing my chest and belly
and genitals, then my thighs and my calves, and when it got to
my feet, washing each of my toes, one at a time,
with an almost this-little-piggy tenderness—
that’s when my resistance melted away
and in its place an acceptance and a gratitude
gripped me so tightly that I couldn’t stop
whispering the little choked thank-yous
escaping like too much air or too much
love from my dry, constricted throat,
which was still sore from the breathing tube.
I remember that acceptance and that gratitude
and that love—I no longer have them—fondly now.
They came from my illness. They were somehow
part of my illness, which I no longer have either, now that I am well.

About the author

Paul Hostovsky's latest book is Mostly (FutureCycle Press, 2021). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, the FutureCycle…

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Issue 25 - Spring 2022

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