In the waiting room the TV goes static to snow. Nobody cares or bothers to turn it down. It's not that I don't want to watch it. Anything watched long enough can become something else, after all, snow in a forest of light,
a zootrophic membrane backlighting the pines of a fragmented and whole and vibrating forest
real neurons can't discern.
Zootrophic, adjective. Pertaining to the nourishment of animals. From zoo-, animal, and -trophic, food. Because even a screen is covered in animals,
a smear of bacteria left from fingerprints, breath, other unnameable residues
crushed together into what turns out to be a kind of signature
left behind on keyboards, buttons of the remote control, even in the air of a room,
an aura of signatures
belonging to a person, lingering, bearing their name
through the air, puffed like a voice over the loudspeaker,
Laura, please come to the desk.
I always confuse -trophic with -tropic, to turn,
as in heliotropic, turning toward, the tendency of an animal to move toward light
or heliotrophic, which must mean some sort of eating of the light, but isn't a word at all, no matter how much I want it.
And it's like if I turn deep enough toward the static, which isn't static but full of movement, laughter, noise,
I can step right into it, walk down it like a hall to the cafeteria, take a little break,
and once I settle I fold open the edges of the carton of Vitamin D Milk and pour the white like light
over the table, carefully, obliterating every surface of the laminate, letting gravity pull it toward the edges like a mother making a bed, and I pour slowly, deliberately, until a kid shouts Hey! and the nurse comes over and grabs my wrist and pulls against gravity, up, up, and twists me out of my chair and out of the
—light is itself a kind of turning toward before
its pixilation becomes too fine for the brain, finer than snow, invisible but obvious as perfume, days later, rumpled into the air from a pillowcase, when it hits the piriform cortex
with its suspicion, small flicker
as when a lime tree shifts its leaves to eat the light
of aldehydes, something no mother ever wore, carrion flower pulsing through the room like a throat, blood just below the skin
of an exhalation and there's no one there after all but myself
of bergamot, civet, heliotrope.
Mother, fibrous mass in a lung, be sweeter to me, please.
When you call me from the hospital, don't do it with morphine in your mouth. Mother, please. I didn't know
when I was driving down one of those unnamed two lane highways, the kind that starts at the border and ends in trompe l'oeil and the red cliffs, striated as a muscle, with the sun epicardial on the rock of the predictable west, somewhere out in the ass of Idaho with the cell signal on again off again and no gas station in recent memory
and the calls came in vibrating urgent and automatic in the cup holder and there was nowhere to pull over so I didn't answer the first time or the second and when I did pull over and called back there was no answer
and I drove some more—I don't even remember where I was going—some Sunday visit to the sublime, yellow grasses easier than church, and the bloodshot majesty
of a whole life hurtling toward a destination inside something like a Volvo, cradled in assurances of safety and the abstraction of speed,
so it doesn't matter that I didn't get the voicemails until later and I'm already in the waiting room and the voice on the sequence of recordings gets steadily and noticeably more frantic, pitching toward panic,
accelerating out of the curve like my brother taught me, being older, reckless
toward a nothingness that could have been romantic and is suddenly absolute and terrible and real and small as the space inside a plastic chair molded to fit a body
that I can't fall asleep in under fluorescent lights, and I'm waiting to hear when or what or anything I don't know, waiting for the diagnosis
to change. I didn't know there is no cure for recovery, no destination outside of itself, no fire escape to step out onto to light your cigarette. It's something you're always in, living in like a room with the ceiling painted black so you can't see the smoke stain it yellow
as the grasses of the flood plain slurring the side window,
yellow as bilirubin building up just below the skin in the endless recovering, which is to say endless failure to recover, yellow as wet linoleum
dazzling back under the exit sign by someone wringing all the pink out of the mop into a biohazard bag
and it's always one more relapse will be enough to stop
the liver from trying to repair itself, scrubbing the blood until it's gone.
I'm supposed to call someone, I think, in a time like this. Family. Brother, sister, some other. Some authority, someone outside myself, but instead time folds itself into a rubber band I keep messing with in my pocket, taking it out and pulling my hair back and twisting and letting go and slipping it back onto my wrist.
That's how I know time is really human, unpredictable how long before it snaps and I fall asleep by not thinking
about all the things a doctor can say: late stage, scarring, low hemoglobin count. Hep C, sepsis, half-life
of a bottle of Klonopin. Or say: it's like a car accident, preventable but irreversible.
Inflammation, viral infection. It's a story about contamination, not about getting clean.
The floor is still wet and it smells like bleach
when I dial voicemail and listen. Mother, please stop. We can't go back. I don't know what to say.
All those times in the car, kids asleep but our brains already wiring up to arrive.
Mother, are we there yet?
Mother, by the time I got there I didn't know
the average lifespan of a red blood cell like the rubber band around my wrist
ends with breaking.
Hemoglobin sounds to me like a celebratory word, a gift, globo, bright balloon that never breaks, tied to a string the nurse hands to a child
whose face for a moment flutters in delight at the color red.
Briefly, mice were placed in glass.
At first to be a mouse was defined
followed by a small edge of fear.
were videotapes of smaller mice
of paws following and testing the perimeter.
The mouse was defined as cage,
Cue walls arranged in open arms, arms
One open arm, two open arms,
Differentiating between context and context
After all, mice are blind.
Water, floor, water, floor,
In the clear level high tone
Time was blinded and placed on the platform.
lubricated and immobile open cages.
the maze of was and were
Cue fear, when animals were taken singly.
total and necessary in its head
Difference is an internal depth,
each second was like a red pedestal
Swim this time to the end. "The procedure
subjects between the center of each second were central were the same procedure for and response by the rectal temperature the trial housing was for an arm entry arm Plexiglas entries arm on four serves enclosed with opposite the enclosed made and spent provides the same setting into shocks performed illuminated with light respectively of testing placed individually the pairings to their pairings of before onto after the last pairing a different testing during the of experiment of around their measured time was an arm apparatus spent the were were plus were the was housed judged recorded formed elevated made connected to the returned related positioned carried repeated measured equipped transported positioned performed conditioned comprised raised extended facilitated elevated conditioned forced traveled induced duration to immobility behavioral well-trained involved central configuration experimental conventional experimental behavioral basal the initial facing inserting conditioning excluding conditioning recording conditioning training to test to measure determinations procedure enclosures diameter photo beam hyperthermia cylinders observer exposure enclosure parameters procedure cylinders diameter stressor stress paradigm responses observer the groups test platform above treatment period stimulus and shock stimulus test speed mobility period under a thermometer in this tone sensors and apparatus above the apparatus which into the rectum central from with for by these those to this e.g. for test sessions by a video camera test sessions by a video camera directly above and by to from plus the directly above the during the last the by two rectal temperature measurements rectal temperature between the distance and between the measurement the measurement the measurement and after T1 T1 SIH SIH T2 T1 0.1° C 30 x 5 cm 30 x 5 x 15 cm 5 x 5 cm 60 cm US CS 70 0.4 mA 260 lx a 18 x 38-cm 24-25°C 2 s 20 s 1 min 2 min 3 min 4 min 5 min 6 min 10 min 15 min 1 h 24 h 24 and 48 h 8.00 and 13.00 h 15 cm 21 cm 50 cm day 1 2 and 3 0.25 cm T2 9 lx 2.2 mm 20 mm 6 dB
"Open Field": The source text for this anagram comes from the supporting information section of Javier A. Bravo, et al, "Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve," PNAS 108 (38) 16050-16055 (2011). The section in question describes testing procedures in a study in mice on the effects of administered probiotics. I was surprised by how many times the word "arms" appeared in this document, as well as the words "room" and "fear," not to mention all the past participles arising from the passive voice. All the words in the section are used exactly once, with no modifications.