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Passing Out

Written by: Philip Levine | Biography
 The doctor fingers my bruise. 
"Magnificent," he says, "black 
at the edges and purple 
cored." Seated, he spies for clues, 
gingerly probing the slack 
flesh, while I, standing, fazed, pull 

for air, losing the battle. 
Faced by his aged diploma, 
the heavy head of the X- 
ray, and the iron saddle, 
I grow lonely. He finds my 
secrets common and my sex 

neither objectionable 
nor lovely, though he is on 
the hunt for significance. 
The shelved cutlery twinkles 
behind glass, and I am on 
the way out, "an instance 

of the succumbed through extreme 
fantasy." He is alarmed 
at last, and would raise me, but 
I am floorward in a dream 
of lowered trousers, unarmed 
and weakly fighting to shut 

the window of my drawers. 
There are others in the room, 
voices of women above 
white oxfords; and the old floor, 
the friendly linoleum, 
departs. I whisper, "my love," 

and am safe, tabled, sniffing 
spirits of ammonia 
in the land of my fellows. 
"Open house!" my openings 
sing: pores, nose, anus let go 
their charges, a shameless flow 

into the outer world; 
and the ceiling, equipped with 
intelligence, surveys my 
produce. The doctor is thrilled 
by my display, for he is half 
the slave of necessity; 

I, enormous in my need, 
justify his sciences. 
"We have alternatives," he 
says, "Removal..." (And my blood 
whitens as on their dull trays 
the tubes dance. I must study 

the dark bellows of the gas 
machine, the painless maker.) 
"...and learning to live with it." 
Oh, but I am learning fast 
to live with any pain, ache, 
growth to keep myself intact; 

and in imagination 
I hug my bruise like an old 
Pooh Bear, already attuned 
to its moods. "Oh, my dark one, 
tell of the coming of cold 
and of Kings, ancient and ruined."