[ToC]

 

3 POEMS

Laura Bylenok

 

WAITING ROOM

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.

 

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WAITING ROOM

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.

 

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OPEN FIELD

An anagram of Behavioral Analysis, from Bravo et al. 10.1073/pnas.1102999108

Briefly, mice were placed in glass.
Briefly consisted of two open arms filled with light.

At first to be a mouse was defined
as the shape of a mouse: a value

followed by a small edge of fear.
Cue absence. The only movements

were videotapes of smaller mice
recorded and scored with days

of paws following and testing the perimeter.
Room to room to room.

The mouse was defined as cage,
as entering another room.

Cue walls arranged in open arms, arms
first making and holding the edges of home.

One open arm, two open arms,
a number of open arms.

Differentiating between context and context
allows an extinction of fear.

After all, mice are blind.
The mouse was an inclusion in a Plexiglas box.

Water, floor, water, floor,
combined in a common sign, grip.

In the clear level high tone
of a thermistor probe.

Time was blinded and placed on the platform.
Mice were arms of gray light,

lubricated and immobile open cages.
Mice were the thoroughly cleaned maze,

the maze of was and were
and footshock on a platform.

Cue fear, when animals were taken singly.
Central electric maze of a last memory

total and necessary in its head
before the nearest baseline was closed out.

Difference is an internal depth,
an interval. Individually, at least,

each second was like a red pedestal
to keep the unconditioned light.

Swim this time to the end. "The procedure
lasted 12 min per mouse per day."

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

 

 

 

 

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"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.