Doyali Islam


on tuesdays in the cramped mustard kitchen
i tear open a swab, pull the white cap
from a vial, screw tight a syringe’s halves.
his sight is back – clouded lenses plucked out –
so i’m cautious as i spy the thin jut
of elbows; white shirt under which sutured
skin hides what the tumour took – a backbone
now of stainless steel, an internal cast
of rod and screws. look: he keeps an empty
chai packet stashed in his breast pocket
for the good scents of cardamom and clove.
my mouth is stern: i pretend not to love
the needle’s bevelled tip, its hollow
gluttonous guzzling. neupogen funnels
like sand through a timer’s slim neck. my hands
each week grow steadier than weather.
they drain the little bottle faster,
develop a square and useless pride.

the nurse mapped his skin, pointed to the sites:
abdomen (at least two inches away
from the navel); the back of the upper
arm (right or left); the thigh (never chosen).the nurse told me to hold it like my pen.
she warned, be swift.

he kept calm, gave us nothing.but she was not there when, at the picnic,
someone said between bites of pie,
you’ve had a good life, and the shade of those
five words passed over his eyes. on tuesdays
he who would never laugh or cry or tell
a joke or work all the days of my life
learns to mouth thanks, and please. that’s when
i’m the closest i’ll ever be to him –
both hate and love the place i enter in.

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