BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURE
it wasn't already taken, the photo
for the surgeon—the nurse hanging
a blue sheet behind my back—during
the examination, after he lowered
his glasses, stuck a flashlight up my nose,
traced the path of fractures with his finger
to demonstrate the way the nose shatters
like an egg, on the operating table.
Before he spoke, he was a surgeon,
then after, an actor. He told me he would
build back the bone by freeing it
to pieces—he would break, again
and again, what was already broken.
The hospital socks gripped the floor
of the OR, kept me warm like an opiate.
I heard the snap of latex on wrists and dreamed
a sky in nitrile, clouds in a race, overlapping
fast as tight, white fists & I wasn't yet home,
when I saw, in the cab's mirror, the yellow-blue
bruises, coupled above a splint, and the warm
drip I wiped and wiped, like an old tic, as if,
under the flickering reel of anesthesia,
I had returned to that house as I
always did, and I wanted the blood
and the blood wanted me back.
When the feeling did not come back for days,
then months, a year, now two, I knew
it would never come back. My surgeon said,
explain how it feels. I said, it doesn't.
He said the nerves, in zaps, would reattach.
He said the nerves have an astonishing
ability to regenerate after injury. My nerves,
like my old self, in my old house, refuse to
communicate with the muscles that move them.
I imagine they are huddled together, playing dead,
perfectly still. But sometimes they react,
in times of distress. They wake in a twitch,
numb as frostbite. Like the day I dropped
the phone and ran out of the house, my t-shirts
in trash-bags, the hotel ice melting in a bucket
as Sonny's arrest went on all night. Where am I
if not at the check-up? The surgeon saying,
hold still, Sonny's wrists firmly cuffed. I ask
where he is taking him, but the cop
isn't listening. He's unlocking
the cuffs with his set of tiny keys,
and then my father, for the last time,
leaves the room.