The technician tells me the machine will tap
while I’m inside it. But the sound I hear
isn’t tapping or anything that rhymes with it.
Poe’s raven is far away,
though Plutonian shores are another matter.
The sound is a spring-loaded soap dispenser,
a techno bass line on a skipping
CD, static cut short when a Walkie Talkie’s button
is released, the sound of
nothing more to say.
It’s the bump of tires
over the varicose veins of tar
holding Pennsylvania highways together,
the vibration of the cell phone whose radiation
probably got me into this mess. The sounds grow rapid
and I want to call them machine guns,
but I’ve only heard those in movies.
I’ll still call the hum and whir PHASER on overload
because a thing need not exist
before it can be feared.
Maybe the technician didn’t have time
to fish for similes, though I have 50 minutes of “Relax
but don’t move.” She omits “I know that’s not easy,” skips
the part where I’m allowed to breathe, to blink,
but not turn my head, neglects to mention
what will happen if I do. I’m reminded
of the high school guidance counselor
who said I’d never graduate
when all she really meant was “It couldn’t hurt
to try a little harder.” I’m reminded of the biology teacher
who taught me all about the kidneys but skipped the chapter
on the brain. Maybe the technician in her lead-lined room
doesn’t know what it sounds like in here. She’s probably never been,
like the fashion designer who practices nudism
but apologizes to no one.
Maybe the machine doesn’t
sound like this at all
and the tumor I hope I don’t have
is making me hallucinate, though I wish
there were voices telling me what to do.
What I do best is metastasize letters into words,
words into phrases of ego and doubt:
Am Are I.
I am, aren’t I?
If these sounds aren’t real, it’s safe
to imagine I hear other things:
cells rapidly dividing, blood pressure
falling, the sound of machines
being turned off.
Laura Thompson earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and her PhD in English from the University of Cincinnati. She is the winner of the 2012 Jean Chimsky Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Fertile Source, PANK, Adanna, SWAMP, and Stirring. She resides in Cincinnati with her tortoise, gecko, rabbit, canary, and hedgehog.