Saturday, June 6, 2009

Savanna

By Ken Hunt

(For everyone who has been tested for HIV)

this blood which is being
drawn for the test is not
familiar blood: like watching
your closest friend go mad,
you don't quite know
the exact nature of the change.
It is the vehicle
which has allowed me
to pass through all
these situations which have led
me to this clinic
where I give only my first name.
As the needle goes in
it makes a prick like every
laser light beam that hit
me square in the eyes
as I lived the accidental,
the ironic,
the physical life.

And these veins which yield
the sample are unfamiliar interstates,
the construction project
everyone forgot about
prone to inducing the spill
of cargo. Careful, I tell
the clinician, I've been bruising
more easily lately
and I don't know why.
This is a bald-faced lie.
I want to say further, at night
I lie awake listening to the traffic
roar and gurgle inside me,
gridlock inside the skull.
Perhaps that is why all this
has come to pass:
to cut the noise,
decongest,
relax.

And the regimen to come,
I know it already:
Cut the misbehavior, stay
at home for a couple weeks
with herbal tea and the everyday
pressure of waiting. Eat healthy,
just in case, take vitamins,
and (you should have
done this already) stop smoking.
Concentrate on work and find
the Fox station which broadcasts
reruns of The Simpsons
three times a day.

And the voices, they will be there too,
figures from memory that do not
merit the dignity of being
called ghosts:
c'mon ken,
one more vodka and coke,
one more shot of Jaegermeister,
one more joint,
one more popper,
one more hit of X,
one more line of speed,
one more --

How many of us stumbled through high school
singing along with the Violent Femmes,
"just one kiss,"
and imagined it would come down to this?

As the needle is withdrawn
I rise above my body and watch it
unfold into a landscape
untouched by human works.
Savanna. Plains covered in tall,
reedy grasses. First the field mice come,
and then the grass snakes,
and then the gazelles and giraffes,
the wildebeests, and needless to say
the lions and tigers,
and finally the elephants.
Birds of prey circle, dive,
kamikaze contact with the earth.
I watch them progress in waves
until I realize it's an exodus,
that the fires have started,
and I am jarred back to my body to feel
hundreds of thousands of panicking
hooves and paws and wings
storming over every inch of my skin.
I'm pinned down and suffocating. No
I bolt up in the clinic
chair to call out to anyone
I love enough to have hear me:
I refuse to become one of those friends
you will have to bury.

But the fact is,
my body is a landscape
and I don't know what lives there.

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